While studies show the number of teens and young adults getting a driver’s license is declining, the auto industry continues to focus strongly on the youth market.

The research comes from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

The study shows, for example, that roughly one in three 19-year-olds do not have a license, continuing a downward trend. One big factor being cited by the

Michigan researchers is the fact that virtual contact has relaced actual contact for some young people.

In other words, they find they can make contact and keep in contact with their peers more easily with their computer and smartphone than by driving to meet them face-to-face.

So why do car brands continue to market to the young?

Jim Appleton of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers explains, “What we are looking at is an earnest desire on the part of auto makers and dealers to form a relationship for life with car buyers. And the earlier that they get started, the more beneficial it is for everybody concerned.”

Appleton says a youth lifestyle dictates a different type of vehicle than a young adult with family, a soccer mom has different needs, or a professional who has an image or a business to run. The products that are coming on the market now…new vehicles that are being developed with technology and features that will appeal to younger drivers.

He says while younger drivers may lack the means to buy a more pricey vehicle, they are still upwardly mobile, and they are likely to continue to trade up as their life moves along.