Kids today, eh? They seem to reckon a smartphone is cooler than a car.

Car companies are concerned that young people in cities are increasingly likely to avoid buying a car. It has already happened in Japan, where sales of all but the smallest city cars have been in long-term decline for over a decade. Now the worry is that it could happen in Europe as well - even when (if?) the recession finally ends.

A report from the consultants Frost and Sullivan says that car companies in Europe will have to look increasingly to car clubs to supply the needs of young drivers. The report says that the rising cost of car insurance is putting young drivers off buying a car, while improving public transport provides an increasingly attractive alternative (not that we are totally convinced by the idea of steadily improving British public transport).

In addition, smartphone technology makes the use of car clubs more viable, as members can easily see the location of available cars while on the move.

It is certainly a trend worth watching, as the report contains an important central truth. 30 years ago, a car was the most sought-after possession for many young people. Today, the stuff they carry around in their cars is actually more important. The latest piece of technology is almost-universally admired by young people, in a way that just doesn't seem to apply to little hatchback cars.

What really concerns the car companies is the thought that people who don't acquire the car-buying habit young may never acquire it at all.