Triangle Auto Enthusiasts on What’s Driving Today’s Car Culture

What’s driving today’s complex car culture? 

Whether you’re a car connoisseur or couldn’t care less—car culture is fueling up. And we have the intel on everything automobile, from emerging car clubs to “Airbnb for cars” to the latest tech gadgets coming down the line this fall. Ready, Raleigh? … Fasten your seat belts.

For more than half a century, the car has been a centerpiece of American culture—a symbol of status, of ambition, of personal freedom. But a lot has changed in the time between boomers and zoomers. Today, a large number of Gen Zers are delaying getting their driver’s licenses and even turning their backs on car ownership entirely, citing financial and environmental concerns. In general, our modern relationship with the automobile has become complicated—think less “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” more flaggin’ down an Uber.

This shift in preference from ownership to access has led to an explosion of peer-to-peer car-sharing businesses (essentially, Airbnb for autos). Take Turo, for example, which “affords everyone the opportunity to find the transportation they need, plus turn an expensive asset—their vehicle—into an earnings engine,” explains Catherine Mejia, who works in public affairs and communications for the brand. As of Dec. 31, 2022, Turo had more than 160,000 active hosts, 320,000 active vehicles and 2.9 million active guests from around the world participating in its marketplace.

Despite these emerging trends, car demand remains high—as evidenced by the scarcity of popular vehicles on sales lots and often monthslong waitlists for new cars (especially hybrid and electric models). At the same time, new niche groups celebrating everything from antiques to exotics are gaining ground. Just ask Melvin Williams, the marketing director for Car Space—a buzzy new private coworking space and social club designed for car lovers—if interest in cars is waning, and he’ll assure you: This is one movement showing no signs of a slowdown.

“The current culture surrounding cars in Raleigh is vibrant and dynamic,” Williams explains. “The city has witnessed a remarkable growth in the car scene, with enthusiasts from all walks of life coming together to celebrate their shared passion.” He points to the renowned Cars & Coffee Morrisville, the largest monthly free car show in the Southeast that attracts more than 3,000 cars each month, as a testament to this thriving community. “You have everybody moving here because of the jobs and opportunities,” says Cars & Coffee Morrisville founder Rob Ayers, “and all the growth in the area promotes growth within the car community.” 

Whether or not Gen Z continues to eschew driving, Williams maintains confidence that Americans’ fascination with the automobile will endure. “Today’s youth exhibit an impressive knowledge and appreciation for automobiles,” he declares. “This is fueled by a multitude of factors, including the growth of Formula 1, video games and a strong sense of nostalgia.” Although it may seem as if that iconic image of fun-loving drivers cruising Route 66 has disappeared into our society’s collective rearview, perhaps a revival of car culture—and a renewed gratitude for the automobile’s integral role in connecting people and communities—is closer than it appears.

Cars & Coffee

Fueled Up

It’s probably a good rule of thumb that you should never make plans with a Raleigh auto buff on the first Saturday of the month. That person is likely headed to Cars & Coffee Morrisville, the largest free car show in the Southeast and a cornerstone of the local car enthusiast experience.

Founder Rob Ayers, whose day job is in landscape architecture, rediscovered his passion for cars following the loss of his mother and decided to launch the event in December 2015. “It totally brought me out of that low point in my life, meeting new people and making new friends,” he says. “I credit all that happening for a reason.”

As Cars & Coffee Morrisville has grown—the first meetups only had ~30 cars in attendance—that tight-knit community feeling has remained. “I try to make it more of a community event than just a car show,” Ayers explains—which he achieves by regularly teaming up with Triangle charities and schools to find ways to give back, plus getting involved with community health initiatives (from offering COVID vaccines to inviting a blood bus for donations). And car lovers can’t get enough: With ~200 sponsors and a large social media following—think 12.2K Instagram followers alone—the support behind the event is staggering. 

The vehicles are certainly a main attraction; however, Ayers says that attendees can typically expect between 50 and 75 exotic cars to show up at each event. “And we do a different theme every month,” he shares. In June, for instance, the focus was British cars, while May highlighted Lamborghinis and April featured Ferraris. “I’m a little biased to Ferrari because I have one,” Ayers says with a laugh. 

But you don’t have to own a specialty car to join the Cars & Coffee craze—all makes, models and years are welcome. In fact, you don’t have to own a car at all. “We strive for everything being inclusive,” says Ayers—“not just the exotics, not just the classic cars, but everybody.”

Driving Force

The story of Car Space—Raleigh’s newest private coworking and social club—began with a group of locals, each at pivotal moments in their professional journeys, who bonded over a shared love of all things automotive. “The founders recognized that cars possess a unique power to break down barriers and foster connections. Engaging in conversations about cars creates an instant rapport, paving the way to build professional relationships, personal friendships and more,” reveals Marketing Director Melvin Williams. “Car Space became the natural extension of this.”

That isn’t to say only devoted car enthusiasts can join this exclusive new club. Car Space is a haven for entrepreneurs, innovators and anyone seeking a vibrant community of like-minded professionals. The upscale coworking space aims to seamlessly bridge the gap between work and play, offering its members a creative escape from the monotony of traditional office environments. Picture sleek, state-of-the-art facilities and a plethora of social amenities ranging from an exclusive cocktail bar and cigar lounge (!) to golfing and racing simulators. And let’s not forget the exotic car gallery, which will exhibit an awe-inspiring and constantly evolving collection of rare vehicles never before showcased in NC. “The atmosphere at Car Space is electric—alive with the hum of conversations that transcend mere networking,” says Williams. “Relationships sparked by a simple question—‘Have you ever seen a car like this?’—can blossom into partnerships, collaborations and lifelong connections.”

With an array of captivating events on the horizon—think a TED-style talk series, chef-prepared dinners and wine tastings—Car Space is revved and ready to serve as a launchpad for its members’ success. (In fact, as of press time the club has already attracted more than 200 members.) “As the doors swing open, we’re brimming with excitement to welcome the Triangle into a space where extraordinary cars become the backdrop to extraordinary lives,” Williams shares. Look for a second Car Space to debut in Charlotte in 2024, with a Charleston club also on the way.

Sharing Is Caring

Turo has a simple mission: to put the world’s 1.5 billion cars to better use. “Cars are underutilized assets that sit idle 95% of the time, and vehicle ownership is getting more expensive every year,” explains Catherine Mejia, a public affairs and communications rep for the innovative company, which now boasts the world’s largest peer-to-peer car sharing marketplace. 

Since launching in 2009, the booming biz has aimed to solve these problems via an app-based platform that allows anyone to arrange transportation in a pinch, or transform their vehicle into a lucrative side hustle. By empowering private car owners in 11,000+ cities worldwide to connect with drivers seeking a fun, customizable car sharing experience, Turo has shaken up the car rental industry in a major way.

Indeed, Turo is a game-changer for cities like Raleigh and truly offers something for everyone. Are you an experience-seeker looking to  splurge on a swanky ride so that you can turn heads on the highway a la Christie Brinkley? Mejia recommends applying the “Deluxe” and “Super Deluxe” filters in your rental search, which highlight models valued at $55,000 or higher. Want to pay off an expensive car by renting it out? Give hosting a go—the company prides itself on having several teams dedicated to supporting these users, equipping them with pricing insights, robust trust and safety policies, and a tiered selection of protection plans, among other helpful services. 

Ultimately, no matter how you choose to use the app, it’s time to embrace the fact that we’ve officially entered our car sharing era—and many see it as the wave of the future.

Classics Rock

Who doesn’t love a good comeback? Just as decades-old fashion trends resurface time and time again, several retro cars are making a return to the spotlight in 2023. 

Trending Now “At present there is a demand for restored pickup trucks from the ’50s through the ’70s,” shares Denny Oestreich, an avid restorer of vintage cars and former president of the Triangle chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America. “Ford Broncos are very popular and sought after.” (S/O to Sydney Sweeney!) Additionally, “Dodge and Plymouth muscle cars from the ’60s and ’70s maintain popularity today,” he says, while “interest in Ford Model T’s and Model A’s has diminished, and prices have dropped significantly.” 

Driving the Change “The car trends follow the age of buyers who accumulate the means to purchase and restore a vehicle they admired and desired in their youth,” explains Oestreich, who owns three 1957 Chevrolets—all of which he restored himself. Most modern buyers tend to look for “a restored original vehicle or a drivable vehicle that can be restored,” he adds. “Vintage cars and trucks are best if they are all there because looking for replacement parts can be very expensive.” 

Forward Thinking Looking to the future, Oestreich predicts that performance vehicles and restomods—aka cars that look original but have been restored with modern improvements—feat. high-quality workmanship will remain most coveted among vintage collectors. 

Insider Tip “Restoration is not inexpensive,” the car buff maintains—in fact, a good repaint of a vintage vehicle can cost $10,000 or more. “You have to be able to do some work yourself to save costs.”

Summertime & the Drivin’ Is Easy 

With summer road trips in full swing, Turo renters are jumping on the EV bandwagon. “The Lucid Air, Mercedes-AMG G63, and Rivian R1T are among the models with the largest increase in searches in the first quarter of 2023 on Turo,” reveals Mejia. “Interest in electric vehicles hit a record high last year, and Turo expects that interest to continue to grow—there’s already a 139% increase in the use of the ‘electric’ filter for 2023 summer trips.”

As for the hottest luxury cars this season? “Of the desirable ‘Super Deluxe’ models guests are looking at the most this summer, the opulent Rolls-Royce Ghost captures the most attention, followed by the BMW 7 Series and the Cadillac Escalade,” Mejia shares.

Down the Road

What fascinating new features will define our future cars? Here, Steffany Stanic, executive director of the Wake County New Vehicle Dealers Association—and a driving force behind the NC International Auto Expo coming Sept. 8–10 to the Raleigh Convention Center—explores emerging trends for 2024 models and beyond.

What is the car world buzzing about at the moment? The ‘buzz’ in automotive is all things electric and how EVs will continue to reshape the future of the car world. EVs are here to stay, and Wake County auto dealers are committed to continuing to provide a first-class buying experience for our customers, whether online or in our state-of-the-art showrooms.

What cutting-edge tech can we expect to start seeing? Expect surround vision technology, which is a bird’s-eye view from different angles when parking, plus built-in Wi-Fi. And vehicle manufacturers are getting into the auto-pilot game. Chevrolet will be offering super cruise (self-driving) technology in many of its fully equipped EVs and SUVs moving forward. We will also be seeing new in-vehicle software developed by the manufacturers for a more efficient, enhanced experience with different subscription models that will get you more access to more features.

Tell us more about the upcoming auto show. Will any of these innovations be on view?  Many of the vehicles on display will be equipped with these features, and we will also be offering ride-and-drives where showgoers can get an up-close-and-personal look at some of this exciting new technology.

Wake County New Dealers Association is committed to not only bringing a variety of makes and models to Raleigh at the auto show so people can experience the newest developments in the car world, but is also committed to giving back to charities and organizations through this event, including Wake Tech’s Hendrick Center for Automotive. … We are making this auto show bigger and better than ever.

You Are What You… Drive?

Comedian and Raleigh native Spencer Bland reveals what your ride says about you.

Audi “You’re classy, but not fake classy. You like a good night out, but you’re home before the bars close. A sensible classy. You work in RTP.”

BMW “You think cars are a status symbol, you are better than everyone else (that’s what you tell yourself)—but no one knows you got this car for like $7K off Craigslist because it’s constantly in the shop.”

Ford F-150 “Your car—excuse me, truck—is your entire personality. You say you don’t care, but secretly you care a lot.”

Chevy Tahoe“You have a lot of kids, but would rather die than get a minivan. You are not a minivan person. You’re a cool mom!”

Tesla“You think you’re saving the planet with your space car, but you’ve never recycled a day in your life. You try to forget your car is a rolling ad for the guy who ruined Twitter.”

Porsche “You saw James Bond one time and made it your life goal to be that cool. Now you are that cool. Or you’re a dad (and maybe still cool).”

Jeep Wrangler “You went muddin’ one time in high school and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. You don’t want to become a ‘Jeep person’ but you really want to put a ‘It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t get it’ sticker on the back.”

Range Rover “You have money or you want people to think you have money (and are very in debt). You have an emotional connection to the music of Dave Matthews Band.”

Honda Odyssey“You have children, multiple. Sometimes you put the pedal to the metal and pretend you’re in a Porsche, but then you notice the stick figure family sticker on the back of your car and slow down.”

Mini Cooper “Congrats, you’re one of six people who own a Mini Cooper. You are unique, a little fun and wish you lived in Italy.”

Honda Civic “You are average. Middle of the road. The B- of humans. But that’s not a bad thing; while everyone is worrying about gas prices, you’re laughing as you get 38 MPG and have 472,000 miles on your car.”

Toyota Prius “You either really care about the environment or you really care about not paying a ton for gas. Regardless, you’re probably a very interesting person, but no one knows that because you drive a Prius and don’t have friends.”

Subaru “You moved here from the PNW or Colorado or you’re about to move to the PNW or Colorado. You really like hiking—like, Patagonia’d-out-to-go-to-the-bar like hiking.” 

Mercedes-Benz “No one who drives a Mercedes is reading this article. You’re on a yacht in the Maldives somewhere while your monthly car wash service waxes and shines your mansion-mobile in your driveway. You don’t tip well.”

Chevy Corvette“You’re still not over the death of Dale Earnhardt. To honor him you tailgate everyone, even in school zones.”

Hummer “Really? A Hummer? In 2023? OK. You’re really into Army Surplus and the idea of supporting the troops, but you’d never enlist. You think ketchup is spicy.”

Toyota Camry “Your parents gave you this car in high school and you’re shocked it’s still running. You’re fun at parties and lost a sock in your car seven years ago and have no idea where it went. You have a name for your car.”

Pontiac “They still make Pontiacs? Wow. Umm. Honestly, no notes—congrats on owning a Pontiac. You are unique or you got this car as a hand-me-down.”

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About the Author

Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.