America's young people just aren't buying cars the way they used to.
The share of new cars purchased by those aged 18-34 dropped 30 percent in the last five years, according to the car shopping website Edmunds.com, CNNMoney reported.
Some say the economy is mostly to blame -- that the young aren't buying because they've been hard hit by the recession.
But others say the trend could be part of larger social shifts.
One reason is demographic: The re-urbanization of America is giving more people access to public transportation. The advent of Zipcar Inc. and other car-on-demand businesses is eliminating the need to own and insure an expensive vehicle that often isn't driven much.
But mostly it's the explosion of social media. Car ownership just may not be as socially important as it used to be.
"What we used to do in cars, young people are now doing online," said one analyst at a recent petroleum industry conference.
The ability to meet and interact with people on the Internet is largely replacing the need to hop in a car and cruise down the strip.
Couple that with more recent restrictions on driving -- later ages for licenses, limits on how many people can be in the car, restrictions on cellphone use -- and the Internet may be surpassing the automobile in the category that gave cars so much appeal: freedom.
Forty-six percent of 18- to 24-year-olds would choose Internet access over owning a car, according to a recent Deloitte study.