GEN Y: NOT IMPRESSED

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Marketers' efforts may be failing to reach Generation Y. At least a group of Chicago-area twentysomethings seems to think the auto industry is trying too hard to win them over. In February, Hyundai Motor America recruited six young professionals and college students to review new models and concept cars on display at the Chicago Auto Show. The automaker is targeting this age group with its Tiburon GT, as well as its concept car, the Hyundai Outdoor Lifestyle Vehicle, a sporty sport-utility wagon with removable roof panels and extended cargo room.

The team was blunt and opinionated.

Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America is already setting up the Xbox at their display, points out Patrick Fanella, 20. The display isn't for our parents, he jokes, it's "obviously geared toward us." The extreme efforts to reach Gen Y are all "getting to the point of overkill. "

Does he like American Honda Motor Co.'s new Element, a vehicle whose showroom display video hearkens to an MTV "Real World" clip? He grimaces: "I like the idea, but it's impossible to clean; and I don't like all the plastic"-which the automaker designed in the cars to prevent dents-because, he says, it scratches easily.

In addition, most of the youths agree that many of the Generation Y-aimed vehicles are priced too high.

What's a reasonable price for their age group? Cars going for $20,000 to $25,000 seem on target, they say. They're aiming "$30,000-plus vehicles at us," says Joe Zahradnik, 21, "and we can't get in the door financially for that price. "

It's clear that automakers are pushing sporty vehicles to appeal to youth, the team says, which seems to be on target: "When you graduate, you don't want a four-door sedan," says Mr. Fanella.

But one member of the team questions what's under the hood in models like Toyota Motor Sales USA's Matrix or the Pontiac Vibe from General Motors Corp. Several members of the team feel today's cars aren't built roomy enough for Generation Y. Two members of the team say they hit their heads trying to get into a few floor models.

And even though the auto industry has made 0% financing offers a recent staple to lure car buyers, this group doesn't seem swayed by them. "How realistic is it that someone 18 years old can qualify?" asks Jennifer Zabilka, 25, adding that she thinks her peers could get better deals without the incentives.

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