FRANKFURT • Few things are so closely tied with Germany's national identity as the car. But changes in demographics and consumer behaviour are beginning to steer that relationship, especially for young people, in a different direction, analysts say.
Yesterday, the IAA auto show threw open its doors to the public in Frankfurt, drawing car lovers in the hundreds of thousands to ogle a glittering display of bright and shiny new models.
"Germans have a very special relationship with the car, which is evident in the importance they attach to the quality and innovation of the vehicles," said director of the Centre of Automotive Management Stefan Bratzel.
That is evident in the success of top-of-the-range national brands such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
But young people in Germany appear to be turning away from the traditional view.
"The car no longer has the importance for young people as it did 30 years ago, particularly for the young generation today who live in big cities," said Mr Bratzel.
According to one study by the Centre for Automotive Research, the average age of buyers of new cars this year was 53, the highest-ever. That is not just because of Germany's ageing population, experts say. The 18 to 45 age group - which makes up 40 per cent of the population - represents just a quarter of buyers of new cars.
"Other products are vying for young people's attention, such as holidays... This has increased sharply in recent years," said the study's author, Mr Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Centre for Automotive Research in Duisburg-Essen.
"In big cities, the car is losing its importance as a status symbol and the emotional relationship attached to it," he said.
Industry expert Peter Fuss noted another development.
"Fewer young people have a driving licence and more and more take part in car-sharing schemes.
"A car no longer has to be owned by its user," he said.
AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE