THE BLOG
08/26/2013 09:07 pm ET Updated Oct 26, 2013

Study Finds Little Fact in 'Millennials Hate Cars' Stereotype

No one wants to admit it, but stereotypes have their root in truth. Think about it: When you get settled in for a trans-Atlantic flight and a handful of toddlers come skipping down the aisle, you get a knot in your stomach, right?

Are all kids on airplanes screaming brats? No, but when "screaming kids on an airplane" is the punch line, we all get the joke.

The same can be said of entire generations. Generation Y, or millennials, seems to be getting an especially bad rap.

You've probably heard the stereotypes: Millennials are selfish, narcissistic and entitled. They care more about the latest phone than owning a car, and would rather walk than drive most of the time.

There's a little truth here. I once had a millennial tell me his only career goal was "to be promoted quickly." Good luck, dude.

And yet who can blame them? They've grown up with social media tools like Facebook, YouTube, SnapChat and Instagram, where they can essentially be "on stage" all the time. It's never been easier to make everything "all about me."

Granted, some of these millennial attributes might be true, but I've seen so many hard-working, dedicated twentysomethings, I'm starting to think this stereotype is more false.

AutoTrader.com recently conducted a study to find out how millennials feel about cars and what they really want when it comes to personal transportation. The results support my gut feeling that millennials have been mischaracterized.

It's true that some younger millennials have delayed getting their driver's license. It's easy to assume they're just not interested in driving. Of the people surveyed, however, only 6 percent cite "lack of interest" as a reason for not driving. Most younger millennials surveyed are too busy, are worried about paying for a car or are afraid of driving. Have you ever seen the Hollywood Freeway or the Lincoln Tunnel at 6 p.m. on a Thursday? I don't blame them for being afraid.

Cost is another reason why younger millennials are delaying getting their licenses, and it's also holding them back from car ownership. More than 80 percent of younger millennials say they don't have a car because it's too expensive. Suddenly, the Tata Nano doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

While baby boomers have a stronger connection with domestic brands, for millennials, the playing field is almost equal. In fact, Honda and Chevrolet are the top two brands millennials would consider if price were not a factor. Someone in Detroit, please high-five Chevy for building compelling cars and for marketing them the right way. And Honda, your Civic Tour concert series is clearly money well spent.

That said, compared to baby boomers, millennials are more likely to consider import brands such as BMW, Kia and Nissan. Oh, and millennials really like Audi.

Most millennials think individuality is very important when considering a car; 48 percent want a car that reflects their personality. Thankfully, some of these kids were actually listening when their Gen X parents were reminiscing. Millennials may never have seen Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but they sure get the sentiment.

As you might guess, one stereotypical trait of Gen Y is true: They value their electronic devices and expect their cars to accommodate them. More than 70 percent of younger millennials surveyed say having connected tech such as Bluetooth, SYNC, MyLink, XM Radio or in-car navigation is essential.

The bottom line is that these kids want cars, know about cars and have very specific wants. Stylishness and connectedness are key considerations.

The mischaracterization of millennials is really nothing new. We've heard it before with Gen X.

They've often been mischaracterized as a bunch of slackers who have alienated themselves from mainstream society.

That's not true -- look at the entertainment they consume. They like Bad Religion, Nirvana and Green Day, helped create Homer Simpson, Homeland, Blade Runner and... well, okay, so Gen X stereotypes definitely have a hint of truth. Still, not embracing the status quo isn't a terrible thing.

So are all Gen X-ers slackers? Not really, but viewed through the eyes of their parents, wearing shorts to work on a Wednesday or ditching office politics in favor of quality may look a lot like not trying. I'd argue it's the exact opposite: Disengaging from the petty means more energy can be spent on hard work and innovation.

And maybe the same is true of millennials. Are they selfish, or do they just know what they want?

Besides, I think they're on to something. If the rest of us are really honest, we'd have to admit Audis are pretty slick looking cars, and in-car gadgets are quickly becoming must-haves for all of us. And I can't argue with the brands Millennials say fit them best. You don't have to be 25 to see that brands such as Chevrolet, Honda, Kia, Nissan and Toyota are hitting their stride with some very compelling cars in a variety of price ranges.

While it's true, some stereotypes are rooted in truth (I'm looking at you, Gen X Morrissey fans), many assumptions about Gen Y-ers simply don't hold up, especially when it comes to how and where they'll shop for cars.