Gen Y a challenge to automakers

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It’s auto show time in Detroit and the automakers are scratching their heads trying to figure out how they are going to sell cars to Gen Yers, 75 million strong, in the U.S. and growing. They account for 25 per cent of car buyers today; they’ll make up 40 per cent in 10 years.

According to a survey done by international accounting and consulting firm Deloitte Touche, one item stands out: 35 per cent of Gen Yers – aged 17 to 28 – think that one of the things that makes a car is cool and desirable is being environmentally friendly. And they say they pay’ll more for it.

Others define cool in more traditional ways: 44 per cent said it meant exterior styling; 40 per cent pointed to affordability.

Nearly 80 per cent of the 1,006 respondents to the Deloitte Touche’s online survey said they were willing to pay more for an environmentally friendly ride.

What they will do when they actually have to open their wallets is another matter.

Sixty-two per cent said they viewed vehicles produced in environmentally friendly plants as a determining factor.

One particularly worrisome stat showed that roughly 70 per cent of those polled ruled out working in the industry, whether it turned out cool vehicles or not.

The study, made in 2008, was released to students from five colleges – Clemson, Michigan State, Syracuse, Gonzaga and Texas Tech and – who presented their conclusions at a town hall forum at the 2009 auto show.