Teenagers' attitudes toward cars are changing in the U.S. Compare these two (made up) recordings of typical teenage interaction: "Hey! Let's all jump in Johnnie's car and go to the Malt Shop!" Vs. "tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tappety tap tap, tap, tap, tappety, tappety, tap, tap."
For an earlier generation car power was an important social distinction, useful transportation resource, tool for meeting members of the opposite sex, and vital gauge of a potential mate's quality. (Owning a car showed economic achievement and potential--someone who could maintain you in the style to which you would like to become accustomed--and if he can fix a car he can probably unstop a toilet or hang a shelf, also key husband qualifications.)
But has the place of the car for many of these purposes been usurped by the BlackBerry or the iPhone or some other possession? (True they can't take you to the malt shop, but maybe the communication that used to require a trip to the malt shop now takes place in other ways. And they don't have a private back seat . . . who knows what kids do about that these days?)
This item from The L.A. Times tells of a recent J.D. Power survey of online conversations. Shockingly, "Online discussions by teens indicate shifts in perceptions regarding the necessity of and desire to have cars." Ominously, "The negative perceptions of the automotive industry that teens and early careerists hold could have implications on future vehicle sales."
Full disclosure: I don't have a car. Most of my kids don't have cars. My wife has a car but it is broken [she junked it since I originally posted this]. My parents have two cars (but are selling one).