LAS VEGAS – As a growing consumer force, Generation Yers may rival the Baby Boomers. But the younger set shows more conservative tastes as auto buyers, a researcher says.

Gen Y ranges from people in their mid teens to early 30s, and many of them, who are relatively new to the automotive marketplace, appear to be no-frills, no thrills-shoppers.

They particularly are interested in affordability and practicality, says Chance Parker, a research director for J.D. Power and Associates.

“They don’t focus a lot on style and whiz-bang features,” he says. “They do talk about reliability, fuel economy, needed features and the integration of those features.”

The young crowd seems to disdain domestic auto makers, believing those firms ignore consumer demands and are the cause the current economic turbulence within the industry, Parker tells a J.D. Power automotive conference here.

It gets worse, from an industry perspective, as Parker relates what he calls “startling” results garnered largely from monitoring online chats, blogs and social media websites.

A growing number of American teens indicate no desire to spend money on buying and maintaining a car, he says.

In Japan, many younger people express similar sentiments, citing intense traffic jams and other drawbacks of motoring in that country.

But for American youths to feel the same way is in stark contrast to what their elders considered important when they were young. It makes for an unusual generation gap.

“It’s not the way I felt when I was a kid,” Parker says. “I couldn’t wait to get a car. It was an aspiration. For a young person to have a car back then was a status symbol.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com