Toyota President Akio Toyoda wants young people to love cars and have genuine feelings of attachment to their vehicles.
Hmm, good luck.
Toyoda preached the pluses of car ownership to about 900 Meiji University students in Tokyo on Sept. 26, said a Bloomberg News and Detroit Free Press report.
Hoping to spark young people's lagging interest in cars in Japan, Toyoda told his audience not to think of cars as commodities, like refrigerators.
Many U.S. dealers probably relate to Toyoda's goal. They spend hours and many dollars attending seminars and training to learn how to hire Gen Y workers as well as how to sell cars and finance and insurance products to the younger crowd.
It's a tough task.
A study released this year by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group said that people aged 16 to 34 would rather Tweet than drive and would rather live in an urban setting with mass transit than commute from the suburbs. Many Gen Y members place a higher value on owning a cellphone or a computer than a car, the report said.
It said people in that age group drove 23 percent fewer miles on average in 2009 than in 2001, a greater decline in driving than any other age group.
Toyoda's reported suggestion to his audience was to love a car the way one would a baby or a pet. That's interesting in itself, given that for years Toyota vehicles were criticized for their bland and soulless designs -- designs that evoked little emotion.
Regardless of design, any warm and fuzzy sentiment for a car today is old-school melancholy dominated by baby boomer and greatest generation car owners.
My parents and their peers loved their cars as if the machines had souls. My mother cried when we traded in our workhorse family sedan after it had carried us more than 200,000 miles. My father thanked the car for its loyalty.
My friend recalled how, as a kid, his brother flung himself on their family's beloved old Volkswagen and sobbed as a tow truck hauled it away for the final time.
Another childhood friend's mother named their yellow Ford Pinto "Betsy." Betsy lovingly hauled us kids to school on many a rainy day.
It's unlikely that Gen Y members would consider naming their cars or crying over the loss of the vehicles. This is a generation that grew up with iPods, mobile phones, laptop computers and other technology. All of which are disposed of when a newer and updated model emerges.
To them, a car is another piece of machinery with no personal or sentimental value and with a high entry price for ownership.
Gen Y will buy cars and come to rely on them the same way older generations do.
But it will be out of necessity. There will likely be no love.