Special report: the auto consumer of the future - designated drivers

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About 16 million shiny new cars and trucks will take their places of honor in America's driveways, garages, carports, and parking spots this year. Whether the proud owner is a seventysomething senior or a 16-year-old with a new license, a recent immigrant or a harried father of three, it's safe to assume that all will feel the same sense of exhilaration as they get behind the wheel and take their prize possession out for its virgin run.

Car culture. With more than 125 million registered, private motor vehicles on the roads today - more than one for every U.S. household - perhaps it's time we added another demographic group to the old standards of race, gender, age, and income: automobile. After all, what else so completely cuts across the differences that define our diverse society?

Yet what we need and expect from our vehicles varies greatly from community to community, gender to gender, generation to generation. And it's changing all the time. To get a look at the 21st century demands of American car customers, we asked four leading research companies to help us put together a view of the road ahead. Herewith, exclusive analyses from AutoPacific on Gen Y, the drivers of the future; The Polk Company on how the shape of our households will alter the car-buying marketplace; J.D. Power & Associates on designing cars for aging road runners; and Market Facts on Latinos' love affair with their cars and how to reach this booming ethnic group. Enjoy the ride!

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