Unlike their parents’ generation whose huge, cruiser-type family car was the last car they drove, Boomers (retired or still working) are consistently replacing their cars with new, hot models and also replacing their kids’ (and even grandkids) cars as the focus of automobile marketing. This is the conclusion of a new study out of University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute as recently reported by Bloomberg News.
University of Michigan’s study has found that in 2013 the 55-64 year age group has become the most likely group of consumers to buy a new car – surpassing their kids 35-44 year-old group who, 4 years ago, were the most likely car-buying consumers. Auto manufacturers should spend more of their advertising dollars enticing the Boomer generation to buy their autos rather than Generation Y and X-age consumers.
Michael Sivak, author of the study, said. “You shouldn’t be chasing the younger people; you should be looking at the older people…boomers are trying to extend their youth as long as they can, both in terms of taking care of their bodies and in their expenditures.”
The reason for Boomers leading auto-buying consumers is likely 2-fold: Lacey Plache, chief economist for auto researcher Edmunds.com offered one of the reasons: “People’s nest eggs were decreased, including their retirement portfolios, by the recession. We can expect these people to be in the workforce longer and, as a result, buying cars longer.”
But another, perhaps even more significant reason is that Boomers came of age when your automobile defined you. It was an extension of your personality and told the world who you were or hoped to be. John Wolkonowicz, a Boston-based automotive historian and former Ford Motor Co product planner explained: “For people who grew up and lived in the 20th century, the car was freedom, it was status, it was an extension of you, a visible expression of you and your personality. A 20-year-old doesn’t see the car the same way….they see it only as a means to get from point A to B.”
As a result car companies like Toyota, Honda, GM, and Ford are shifting their auto product focus from 25 year-olds to Boomers. They’re creating cars that are easier for older drivers to get into and handle rather than the high-riding sports vehicles aimed at younger consumers whose sales plummeted. Even auto companies’ television commercials are supporting the new Boomer focus, even poking fun at millennial-age groups – their former focus. Bob Zeinstra, Toyota’s national ad and strategic planning manager explained it: “Boomers are looking for vehicles that help them stay active and young because that’s the image they want to have of themselves.”