Opening doors:
Who’s buying new cars anyway?

by Jeff Weiss

Since starting Age of Majority three years ago, I see opportunities everywhere.
I see brands, who clearly target older consumers, yet who are out of touch when it comes to how today’s Active Agers search for and buy new products as is reflected in outdated marketing efforts and tactics (such as the imagery and language they use).

And then there are entire categories that almost completely ignore older consumers, despite accounting for 40% of all consumer spending.

The automotive industry is one that has largely ignored (with a few exceptions) the largest group of buyers and influencers on new car purchases — older active consumers (along with women as well). Consider the following:

  • Active Agers purchase over half of all new vehicles;
  • The average new car or truck buyer is 53 (older than it was a decade ago);
  • Research through our Revolution55 insights community reported that 86% of our Revolutionaries own their own vehicle, while 5% lease and 9% do not have a car;
  • 57% of new SUV buyers and 54% of Electric Vehicle buyers are 55 and older

Given that new vehicle retail sales in the US are somewhere around $800 billion annually, you would think that there would be greater interest among car manufacturers to woo older consumers who account for over half of that amount.

Yet, how many car or truck ads or campaigns have you seen that overtly target Active Agers? There are some good ones from brands like Volkswagen, but the majority are directed at younger consumers who are not buying new vehicles at anywhere close to the same rate as older ones.

Younger consumers, mainly Gen Z and Millennials, are driving the growing trend to use ride-sharing programs like Lyft and Uber, with many not even bothering to get their driver’s license. Weigh that convenience against the expense of owning your own car (including a down payment, monthly car payments, insurance, maintenance, gas and parking), and it’s no wonder new car sales are dropping amongst younger consumers.

Active Agers, on the other hand, still rely heavily on their vehicles, partly because they have the money to do so. For them owning a vehicle represents more than just the ability to get from point A to point B. For these older consumers, their car is part of their lifestyle that offers them freedom and independence — two things that become increasingly more important as you get older.

With fierce competition in the automotive market, it is time that more brands looked at the data and saw past the myths and stereotypes associated with older car buyers. That doesn’t mean ignoring the younger market, but it does mean moving some of their efforts and resources towards the group of consumers who are actually paying for a large portion of their salaries and those expensive television spots.

Not sure where to start or what a campaign “targeting” older consumers looks like? Please reach out. We can start opening some doors for you, whether that’s through quick insights from our community of Active Agers or a closer audit of your current marketing efforts.

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