An article at the Wall Street Journal yesterday reported that baby boomers are snapping up cars that are marketed towards younger buyers. To some, this is weird and unexpected, similar to that odd conundrum when moms and daughters fall in love with the same pair of tight, hip-hugging jeans — thankfully cars are a little more forgiving. But what’s the deal? Why/how could something marketed towards 20-somethings attract 60-somethings?
Let’s start with the economy.
With the economy in a rough place, the automotive industry has been cautious. Auto makers have been targeting the younger generations with cool, sporty cars in hopes of securing their brand loyalty: you buy a Corolla at age 20, and, hopefully, you’ll love it and buy Toyota for the rest of your life. That’s the theory anyway. Companies hope to lure first-time buyers with Bluetooth, Pandora, navigation systems, and touchscreen everything. The real problem with this whole theory is that the younger generation is poor. Nice to meet you Mr. Recession and Mrs. Debt!
This is where the baby boomers come in…
The baby boomers are still pretty cool. These men and women of the mid-20th century are looking for something other than the “senior citizen mobile.” They are drawn to the smaller, sportier sedans and hatchbacks on the market — think the Scion line up, the Mini Cooper, Fiat 500, and the Kia Soul… the cars meant for their grandkids.
I’m not surprised that the baby boomers are buying up these little cars; nobody should be denied a fun, cool car due to age. Nobody puts Baby in a corner! I think the auto makers might be overlooking two things when it comes to surviving in this tough economy…
First of all, their largest group of consumers, the baby boomers, has been buying, buying, buying for decades.
“The baby boomer generation is the largest cohort in the marketplace,” Kia’s Mr. Sprague said. “Just by virtue of their numbers being so large, we’ll continue to see them skew the data for a long time.”
Last year, buyers 55 and older accounted for more than 40% of all new car sales, up from 33% in 2008 while buyers between the ages of 18 and 34 represented only 12% of new-car purchases. And that is down from 14% five years ago, according to Edmunds.com.
The baby boomers shouldn’t be shunned for the younger buyers — especially when the younger buyers are cash-strapped and the older buyers keep purchasing vehicles. Cater to the cool, older buyer! You might say that the baby boomers are keeping new-car sales going.
Secondly, who says “older” and “technology” don’t mix?
The baby boomers were some of the first computer owners — they lugged those GIANT computers in the plastic boxes to work and back. Remember the “car phone”, the beeper, the cellphone, the pager?! They were the guinea pigs for these ancient, tech ancestors. They might seem overwhelmed by the newest iPhone or tablet but don’t forget they were the generation to make these devices successful. The older generations adapt and learn (like everybody else). They know what’s up.
So don’t be surprised when the cool moms, dads, and grandparents start showing up at graduations and family reunions in fun, sporty cars, rocking out to The Bee Gees via Pandora, and want to show you their vacation pictures on their iPad. Roll with it — they’re holding up a lot of the auto market while my generation scrambles to keep up. Come on guys, let’s crush this debt!