When I was talking with those Scion folks a while back, they mentioned something which caught my attention like a Pomeranian on an unattended hot dog. They said interest in cars is waning among young people, and teens are waiting longer to get their licenses. And one of the reasons is that kids are getting along with their parents better than ever.
This sounded strange to me until I thought back to myself at 15, saving my $600 from my after school job selling and installing Apple IIs to buy that first Wrigley's-gum-beige colored '68 Beetle. And a major motivator to buy that car was for the sublime joy of getting the fuck out of the house. I loved my parents, of course, but there's something about the din of a Bronx-originated Jewish family (the airport often called to ask us to keep it down) that made the concept of being anywhere the hell else wildly appealing.
I decided to check on the numbers for myself, and contacted the Federal Highway Administration, who kindly provided me with the numbers of drivers aged 19 and under going back to 1994. Sure enough, the number is dropping. It's had peaks (1998, 2008) but we're now in a very clear downward trend, falling by about 400,000 since 2008.
I'm pretty confident Scion's done lots of research on this, since up until quite recently, Scion has considered themselves Toyota's youth brand (they now say they're the "experimental" marque, which sounds more fun to me). The real issue seems to be that the relationships between parents and kids are generally so good, the kids just aren't feeling the crazed desire to get out of the house like previous generations did. Parents are also generally more protective, meaning that it's increasingly hard for a teen to get a car of their own. The $500 deathtraps me and all my friends drove are becoming a dying breed. Anything considered safe enough is far more expensive.
Scion also blamed social media, suggesting that today's youth are in such constant contact with one another that the need for physical travel has diminished. This one I'm more skeptical of, at least until truly effective third-base activities can be achieved over WiFi.
On the surface, what's to bitch about here? Kids are getting along with their parents, safer cars are available, what's the harm? The harm is that cars, for all their issues, can be amazing things. They can spawn friendships and stimulate creativity and develop skills and so many other things. They form the core of what was once a vibrant subculture, and this is in danger if a new generation of kids never gets to realize how much they can get out of an interest in cars.
So, for the sake of your children, be an asshole sometimes. Stop being so fucking understanding and cool; tell the little bastards they'll never amount to anything, they're huge disappointments, and, if you're really feeling it, that you wish you never had them. They'll thank you when they peel out of the driveway in a rage, the loud thrum of a revving engine and the smell of burning rubber helping to turn them into independent, interesting adults.