Car Culture

Millennials don't hate Boomer car culture, they just want to do it their way

Passionate car culture is here, it just loos different than it has in the past.

Photo by Getty Imgaes

Discord between generations is nothing new. In the '60s and '70s, peaced-out hippies were busy sticking it to The Man; these days, woke Millennials are thumbing 'OK Boomer' replies to, well, those same hippies who ditched the tie dye and musicals for a dyed tie and cubicles. The cycle will continue until either the fountain of youth is invented or a rogue comet destroys us all.

Plenty of ink has been spilled about Millennials and the car industry, most of reading as more dour than a Michigan winter. If one listened solely to the claptrap, they'd believe everyone under the age of 40 wants to burn their cars. While some so-called futurists are eager to predict the end of the personal automobile, what we saw at this year's auctions in the Arizona desert proved that excitement about automobiles is alive and well with the young'uns ... it simply takes a different form, that's all.

vintage historic classic carThe classic nameplates of the past don't hold as much stock with the younger set, who are willing to highlight brands that they grew up revering, like Infiniti and Toyota.Photo by Getty Images/iStockphoto

It's not like new cars are nailed to showroom floors. According to the information dorks at Statista, the number of new car registrations in America has never been higher, climbing each year since 1990 save for a dip around the Great Recession. About 17 million new cars have been sold per year for the last five years. As per research group AdColony, 60% of car shoppers have yet to experience Freedom 55 and, more specifically, consumers between 35-54 prefer to buy an SUV (48%) over consumers between 18-34 (37%).

Why? Personal expression, perhaps. Those who are interested in splashing out money on new wheels may be more likely to select something that isn't like every other machine on the road. As well, buying a home and raising a family is also more expensive than ever, so a cheaper option usually manifests itself in something that doesn't take the form of an SUV. A recent study cited by Forbes found that the top three car models most owned by Millennials are Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Honda Civic.

New cars are one thing. But, as anyone who lives within a country mile of an ardent gearhead will tell you, driving and owning a ride from days past is the mark of someone who is truly passionate about cars. In this group, the zealous automotive fires burn white hot.

Ryan ZumMallen, reviews editor at Edmunds and author of the car culture book "Slow Car Fast", rightly pointed out that a good chunk of Millennials aren't kids anymore. "They're grown adults who are ready to leverage their spending power on items that were influencing them in the '80s and '90s." He referenced the Youngtimer's collection at auction house RM Sotheby's, a collection of European and Japanese automobiles from that ear which brought big bucks last year. Those types of cars, ZumMallen explained, would have been shunned at such events just a few short years ago. Now, these auction houses are going through great lengths to attract younger buyers for such machines.

One can also make the case that Millennial auto enthusiasts are not singularly focused on one particular trend or type of vehicle. Their diversity, both in terms of demographic and car choice, is a strength largely unharnessed by previous generations of gearheads. It is this author's opinion that this is juicing values of a variety of collector vehicles - vintage Broncos capable of spinning up dirt in quantities to satisfy the hygiene needs of six Persian cats and Japanese sports cars with retina-detaching performance are but a brace of examples - but perhaps not into the stratosphere the market once saw with the likes of zillion dollar Hemi 'Cudas.

video car YouTubeMillennials are transforming the way most of the world thinks about cars using a variety of platforms aside form the traditional car show, like YouTube.Photo by Getty Images/Westend61

A tremendous real-world example? While attending this year's Barrett-Jackson soirée in Scottsdale, we witnessed BMW Lightweights hammering away for prices deep into six-figure territory. These cars, from a collection that belonged to Paul Walker, undoubtedly drew some of their fiduciary strength from an association with a famous car-adjacent actor and his proximity to a certain movie franchise. However, there's an argument to be made that something else - something Millennial - is afoot here as well.

The democratization of speed has reached a zenith in the last couple of years. One can walk into a new car showrooms of several different brands and drive away in a machine with over 700 horsepower. Hellcats, GT500s, and even the scattered Jeep (Jeep!) have placed sky-high levels of grunt into the disgustingly sweaty palms of anyone who can keep up a repayment schedule. Even a V6-equipped Toyota Camry can run to 60 mph from rest in less than six seconds and will, in fact smoke the on-a-retro-pedestal Integra Type R by about two seconds in the quarter mile.

But no one will argue that a Camry provides any semblance of joyful motoring. That's yet another insight into why cars like the E30 3-Series and '90s-era Toyotas and Mazdas are enjoying a renewed fetishization - their ability to provide an exaggerated and less sanitized sense of speed, even though the car itself may be ultimately slower. It also doesn't hurt that, as adults, Millennials have the scratch to spend on cars they simply desired as teenagers. Whether they developed that aspiration through playing Forza on Xbox or watching bracket racing at the local track matters not one whit. We're witnessing one of the greatest shifts in buying power and era of influence the car game has ever seen - and yours truly is glad to be along for the ride.

Discord between the generations? That'll be a reality as long as there are people of different ages on this planet. People with disposable income buying what they like? That, more than ever, seems to be the tie that binds.

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Toyota patented a dog-walking robot.

Toyota

Pets are one of life's great pleasures, but there's no disputing that they're a ton of work. Cleaning, vet visits, and walks are just the beginning, so it's always interesting to see the products that promise to make pet ownership more manageable. Toyota, the world's largest automaker, filed a patent for a self-driving dog-walking robot that looks nearly as advanced as many cars today.

Toyota Dog Walk RobotLogic helps the bot determine when to clean up a mess. Toyota

The main structure appears to be a platform with various attachments, and though the intention is for the machine to walk the dog for you, there's space for a person to ride. The vehicle is completely autonomous and does not require a person to guide it on walks. Sensors keep the robot from running over the dog and maintain speed.The patent paperwork includes several decision trees and logic for how the vehicle responds in various dog walking scenarios. One uses the vehicle's sensors to gauge the dog's distance from the robot. If the dog wanders too far, the machine can lock the leash and adjust its speed to maintain proper distance. It's the same sort of "thinking" done by autonomous cars on the road, just adjusted for scooping poop and leash management.

Speaking of number-two, dogs tend to poop when they walk, so Toyota had to prepare the robot for some poop scooping. In its decision-making process, Toyota added logic that asks, "Is it detected that the dog has pooped?" If the answer is yes, the machine is then instructed to "Execute collection process." A camera helps determine when the pooping has happened so the machine can do its job. If the dog pees, there's a water sprayer with an onboard tank to rinse the ground.

If your dog is anything like some of ours, it's likely you don't make through more than a few walks without some antics. Our lazy pups frequently get tired of walking and decide it's time for a mid-sidewalk nap, but Toyota's dog walker isn't going to tolerate any of that. The platform features paw sensors that can sense the dog's position and even let it do some driving.

Toyota Dog Walk RobotThe bot will scoop poop and wash away pee during a walk.

Toyota's patent filing is fun to think about and imagine what could be, but it's still just a patent. The automaker could turn its idea into a line of puppy walkers sold at dealers across the country or file it away as a thought exercise, never to be seen again. Either way, Toyota's got an exciting year ahead of it with the GR Corolla release and bZ4X hitting the streets, and there are rumors of a Crown SUV coming to the automaker's lineup.

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The Z06 isn't on sale yet, but it's already raising money for charities.

Chevrolet

Just a couple years ago, the Chevrolet Corvette got a major overhaul that completely changed its design, personality, and performance. The car moved to a mid-engine layout for the first time, and its V8 produces thundering performance at a reasonable price. As it has always done with the Corvette, Chevy's laying out special editions for the car, and one of the first in the new generation will be the 2023 Corvette Z06. An early Z06 sold at a Barrett-Jackson auction this weekend to raise money for charity, and the final dollar amount crested the $1 million mark.

2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06The car raised $1 million at the Palm Beach Auction. Chevrolet

The car crossed the block at the Palm Beach Auction, which took place on April 9. It's the first production model of the car, which builds on the mid-engine eighth-generation Corvette. It's powered by a 670-horsepower 5.5-liter flat plane-crank V8, which sends its power to the rear wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The engine revs much higher than a standard V8 and features a distinct sound. Chevy says the Z06's engine offers the most horsepower of any naturally aspirated V8 on sale.

2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06Rick Hendrick was the winning bidder for the car. 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

The car's $1 million price tag raised money for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. The organization supports training of educators at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBI). This auction, together with the first retail version of the car auctioned earlier this year, brings the Corvette's total charity haul to $4.6 million in 2022.

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