Research shows the next generation is excited about driving.

Could Gen Z be Gen Zoom?The GI Generation, the Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials – it can be confusing tracking the names and characteristics of the demographic groups moving through our multigenerational environment. And now there is a new one to add to the watch list – Gen Z.

Gen Z is the 23 percent of the population currently between the ages of zero and 17 and recent research conducted by Auto Trader and Kelly Blue Book sheds some light on a this new demographic merging onto the generational superhighway.

The research focused on how Gen Z’s characteristics might influence the automotive industry. The good news is research shows they are excited about driving. In fact, there are some big differences between them and their preceding generation, Millennials, who seem to be Meh… lennials when it comes to driving. For example:

  • Gen Z is more interested in saving money than saving the planet. In general, this demographic is money conscious and price is more important to it than any other preceding generation.
  • Gen Z’s parents work hard to try to prepare them for the world. This is in contrast to the approach parents of Millennials took, who tried to shelter them from the world.
  • Gen Z ingests information in picture form, rather than the written word. If you can crack the Snapchat and Instagram code, you will have a direct line to the hearts and minds of this highly visual generation.

So, what does that mean for the auto industry? Millennials may favor hanging up the keys, but Gen Z is right behind them snatching them off the hook. A car represents freedom to them and a way to makes life easier. However, the car they may eventually own won’t define who they are. Gen Z is looking to the car to be a gateway to experience – not the experience itself.

Based on the research, here is what you need to know about the Gen Z demographic that is expected to hold $3.2 trillion in purchasing power by 2020.

  • 92% of the Gen Z population wants to own and drive cars – This differs greatly from Millennials, who trend away from car ownership, which is fueling sharing services like Zipcar and other ride services like Uber and Lyft. In fact, Gen Z is willing to give up social media, new clothes and cell phones for a year in order to own a car.
  • Gen Z wants to save a different kind of green – While Gen Z is more interested in environmentally-friendly vehicles than teens of previous generations, they don’t seem motivated to put Earth first. Gen Z is looking to save money at the pump.
  • Gen Z is less focused on style and brand than Millennials – While Gen Z doesn’t see any automotive brands as highly-relatable, they do value brands that are seen as traditional, practical and trusted.
  • Gen Z values safety more than other generations – Gen Z’s interest in vehicle practicality, placing safety above almost all other vehicle features – even above infotainment.
  • Gen Z’s interest in safety fosters their interest in self-driving cars – A majority of Gen Z expressed interest in vehicle autonomy, as they believe it makes roads safer by addressing distracted driving.
  • Despite being born and raised around technology, Gen Z doesn’t trust it – Rather than fully-autonomous vehicles, Gen Z is leaning more toward driver assistance and limited self-driving features.
  • Gen Z wants car buying to remain in the auto dealership – Only 26 percent of Gen Z teens want to buy a car online. They expressed wanting the total car buying experience – from the face-to-face interaction with product experts to the test drive.

As a Gen Xer, scholars and authors say my generation is going to save the world. Or, at least can still keep everything from sucking. If what the Auto Trader and Kelly Blue Book research indicates about Gen Z holds true, we should expect to see a new age of personal mobility options in the next decade that will carry this demographic to the experiences they prize and bring them safely home again.