The Star.com

Boomers continue their love affair with the car while the industry ponders how to get their tech-driven kids on the bandwagon.

While boomers continue their love affair with the car, basing their lifestyle on having "wheels," millenials are dragging their feet getting driver's licences and are staying away from carmaker dealerships in droves.

Toronto Star file photo

While boomers continue their love affair with the car, basing their lifestyle on having “wheels,” millenials are dragging their feet getting driver’s licences and are staying away from carmaker dealerships in droves.

The president of Toyota Motor Corp. is perplexed by boys who don’t have a vehicle and think they can pick up girls these days.

“In the past, if you wanted to date someone, you couldn’t ask her out if you didn’t have a car,” Akio Toyoda, 57, told a packed auditorium of about 900 Meiji University students in Tokyo earlier this fall.

“It’s all changed now. Money goes on monthly phone bills. Also, parking’s expensive and it’s easy to get around . . . on public transport.”

His frustration is indicative of the looming crisis facing the big automakers down the road: how to get kids interested in cars.

While boomers continue their love affair with the automobile, their tech-driven offspring would rather get from point A to point B on their smartphones, which has car makers in a tailspin.

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The big auto manufacturers are on pace for a record-setting sales year in Canada and the U.S. But a worrisome scenario looms to get so-called “millennials” (ages 16 to early 30s) behind the wheel, and keep sales momentum rolling in the future, experts say.

The elusive Gen Y crowd (often considered to be people born in the 1980s and 1990s) would rather socialize on their computers and smartphones than drive over to a friend’s house the way mom and dad liked to do in their day, says Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants in Richmond Hill.

“Kids don’t love cars the way their parents do, and smartphones are replacing some of the social elements that a vehicle used to fill,” he says.

“They feel they can be social more efficiently (via text and Twitter) than having a big honking car in the driveway,” he adds.

High gas prices and environmental concerns also don’t help matters, analysts say.

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