Get an electric scooter first -- and maybe a car 4 years later

Luca Ciferri is senior reporter at Automotive News Europe
Electric scooters on car stands. It could apparently look like -- but it is not -- a Paris auto show extravaganza.

Peugeot will begin selling an electric scooter in March 2011 -- as will BMW's Mini and Daimler's Smart brands, which both unveiled electric scooter concepts here at the show. All have a common goal: Lure younger buyers before they lose any interest in automobiles.

Some fear Europe could soon get the scooter contagion from Japan, where young people simply skip getting a license because they are uninterested in driving or owning a car.

In Germany, by far Europe's largest market, there are already such worrying signs.

According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study unveiled here on the eve of the show, the number of Germans aged 20 to 29 who owned a car last year was 40 percent less than it was 10 years ago.

So what is the common goal of Peugeot, Mini and Smart?

Persuade a 14-year old boy or girl to buy one of their electric scooters and keep them in the family until they turn 18 and could buy -- or a lease -- a like-branded car.

By the time the prospective buyer would become age-eligible to drive, they could trade in their electric scooter for an electric car.

Will this work? Hard to say. But it's at least a strong sign of forward thinking from these automakers.