Fewer kids are getting their driver’s license

There are all sorts of trends out there that affect the auto industry, like how the Toyota Prius has changed how we think about hybrids and fuel efficient cars. But this one seems incredibly significant – fewer kids are getting their driver’s license these days. 30.5% of American 19-year-olds in 2010 did not have a driver’s license, which is the highest percentage ever, and a sharp increase from the 24.5% in 2008 and only 12.7% in 1983.

What’s causing this? It all has to do with the Internet, phones and social media. Today, kids don’t need a car to socialize with their friends. They can text like crazy, play games on headsets while they chat with their friends, look for a poker game by searching an online poker guide, post wild photos on Facebook or arrange a meetup through Twitter. Sure, cars are still great, but they are no longer essential for the social experience we all crave at that age.

The implications of this are huge for automakers and car insurance companies. Car companies love younger buyers, but now they’ll have to adjust their thinking a bit. Also, will insurance companies treat a new driver who is 18 the same way they would treat a 16-year-old?

It will be interesting how this affects car safety. The roads have never been safer and this might be a good trend in that area. At least some patents are breathing easier, though this also means they’ll be shlepping around their kids for a little longer.

This might also explain why the car companies are racing to add gadgets and features to cars to make them more attractive to the new social generation.

Renault’s 400bhp sports car in the works

Whenever a new concept car is released, particularly if it looks like it’s one of a kind, there’s always plenty of excitement from people in the motoring industry and petrolheads alike. This is certainly true of the new Renault Alpine, a mid-engined 400bhp sports car which has been unleashed on the Monaco Grand Prix circuit to demonstrate its prowess. Paying homage to Alpine, the former sports car manufacturer which was amalgamated into Renault in the 1970s, this car has set a lot of tongues wagging, wondering how much car insurance would cost if they were to buy one.

Before the brand was discontinued by Renault, Alpine’s motoring heritage was long and impressive. The A110, made during the 1960s-1970s, famously won the first ever World Rally Championship in 1973, while, not long after being taken over by Renault, they won the Le Mans race in 1978. Having been dropped in the 1990’s, the new Renault Alpine will be made available for sale, ideal for racing around a track.

Renault’s CEO, Carlos Tavares, claimed that this was their last chance to build an iconic sports car, while another member of the French manufacturer’s board said “If we don’t do it this time, we never will.”

The Alpine’s 400bhp V6 engine means that, when it finally hits showrooms, it will make a great thrill-a-minute ride for people who’ve always wanted to drive a great-looking sports car. As for the bodywork, its emphatic rear spoiler and metallic blue paintwork complete with orange trim makes it look the part.

Big Three report solid sales gains for June

Ford, Chrysler an GM all had solid sales gains in June. Here are some highlights:

- The just-redesigned Ford Escape set a record with sales up 28% while the Ford Fusion sedan, which is about to get replaced by a newer version, also set a record. In addition, Ford Explorer sales were up 35% from last year.

- Combined sales of all seven Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac crossovers were up 30% versus a year ago. That’s great news for GM, since they are generally higher profit vehicles than cars.

- The Fiat had its fifth consecutive month of record sales. More Fiat 500 vehicles were sold during the first six months of this year than during all of 2011.

Let’s hope the good news continues.

Initial studies not good for lane departure systems

This is a bit of a surprise.

The high-tech, high-price systems are supposed to help inattentive drivers stay in their own lanes, not stray disastrously into nearby cars. But vehicles with the systems showed increased, not decreased, crashes in a study being released today by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research group for insurers.

The unexpected finding that lane-departure setups increased crashes as much as 10% is inexplicable, IIHS says.

David Zuby, chief research officer at IIHS, speculates that users might find the warning sounds or vibration alerts used by lane departure systems annoying and shut them off. Or the alarms are too frequent as drivers stray slightly side to side in normal diving, and so are ignored.

That, of course, explains why they might do no good, but not necessarily why they’d do harm, he acknowledges.

The result also could be a statistical quirk, because few cars in the study had the safety feature.

This is just one study so we shouldn’t be alarmed. These things take time for drivers to figure out, but it also highlights the fact that in some ways cars are becoming too complicated to operate properly for some people.

The Mustang Boss drives great on the track

Bullz-Eye.com headed out to Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City, Utah to drive the 2013 Mustang Boss 302 on the track. It was quite an experience!

There are few things quite as exhilarating as driving a muscular sports car on a track. Driving on the open road or through winding mountain roads can be great, but pushing a beast like the Mustang Boss 302 around the tight turns of a racetrack and then flooring it on the straightaway will give you a thrill you’ll never forget.

The Boss 302 is an iconic Mustang that was resurrected for 2012 and has some cool updates for 2013.

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