Down Economy Moves Car Buyers' Age Up

Seniordriver

It doesn't matter how good a new car looks or how many miles per gallon it gets if you can't afford to buy it.

Evidence is clear that when given the choice between making a mortgage payment or a car payment, the house wins out. The weak U.S. economy and a housing market in the dumps kept many folks from buying a new set of wheels last year. The average age of new-vehicle buyers ended the year at 48 years old; in January 2007 it was 43.

Buyer age rose because young consumers were forced to the sidelines by having to make mortgage and credit card payments at the expense of car installments. Mortgage and credit card costs impact younger, lower-income consumers more than older, higher-income ones.

It wasn’t so much that older folks waited until December to reach for their wallets as it was that younger folks were increasingly forced to sit on their hands as the year went on, according to analysis of 2007 buying trends by CNW Marketing Research, a firm that studies why consumers buy what they do.

Another telling tale about buying age from CNW was that the average age of shoppers choosing a domestic vehicle was 49.4 years old in 2007 — older than the average 42.5-year-old buyer of Asian cars but younger than the 50.6-year-olds choosing European nameplates.

The oldest average shoppers industry-wide were looking at Ford or its Mercury and Lincoln brands, at 54.3 years. GM shoppers averaged 48 years old, while Chrysler shoppers came in at 44.

On the foreign-manufacturer front, an interesting auto rivalry also had interesting statistics: The average age of Toyota shoppers was 46.6 years old, while the average age for Honda shoppers was 51.2.

And while Buick is typically the butt of jokes about buyers who are somewhere between retired and deceased, the average age of a Buick shopper last year was 55.2 years old, considerably younger than the average 63.6-year-old Mercedes-Benz shopper.

By Jim Mateja | January 18, 2008 | Comments (4)
Tags: Car Buying

Comments 

The recent brusty of housing industry has put cars on top onceagiant for real inverstiors but people who want alife they still look for a homme than a car

Interesting data for my baby boomer readership.

I am the CEO of Grandparents.com; a site that specializes in the enormous and (relatively) wealthy grandparent universe. In speaking to automotive marketers we have observed an almost universal disdain for these key facts of life and a bizzarre nostalgia for a non-existant world wherein everyone is young, beautiful and buying a new car almost weekly.

We have heard (literally) from marketers and their agencies that "we know our buyer is older, but our strategy is to appear young", or "we have to drive our franchise younger" or other similar drivel. This totally reminds me of the whining we heard a few months ago when the industry 'discovered' that the average age of a network TV viewer had reached 50.

As Crosby Stills Nash & Young once said: "if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with". These marketers should stop hating their (older) customers, stop wishing that they would get younger and stop fantasizing that by wishing they can make it so. The reality is that our US population is getting older. Blame Griswold v Connecticut, but the baby boom ended in 1964. Since that fateful day we have, as a nation, been getting older. And, as marketers and manufacturers we must not delude ourselves with fantasy. We have to play the hand that's dealt. Perhaps one reason the American car business is in such dire straits is that they have steadfastly refused to confront reality.

JC

I drive a 2001 Buick LeSabre with 112,573 miles on it and I have about 15 years to meet the average age of current Buick owners. The car is great! I average 27 or so miles per gallon per tank of gas. That's driving in town and on the freeway everyday. I am currently driving this car because I don't have a payment. Sure I am going to buy a 2010 Camaro on my birthday in 09, but having a roof over my head and food on the table is more important.

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