Lincoln, Buick, Bugatti, Cadillac Attract The Oldest Buyers

October 2, 2014

Since the Great Recession, America's auto market has changed -- not just in terms of the cars we drive and the high-tech features they offer, but also in terms of who's buying those cars. A new post from 24/7 Wall Street discusses the brands that attract older shoppers, who now account for the majority of new-car sales

The question is: should these brands be worried that their products appeal to the AARP set? Or is that a badge of honor?

RETIREES & THEIR RIDES

Study after study has shown that shoppers under 40 aren't that interested in car ownership, opting instead for ride-sharing services like Uber, and Zipcar. Instead, it's older Americans who are driving today's huge auto sales.

And when it comes to appealing to older Americans, some car brands do much better than others. Interestingly, though, it's not always the brands you'd think.

To identify the most popular makes among Baby Boomers and their parents, 24/7 Wall Street analyzed sales data from IHS Automotive. What that revealed was that the average buyer for all three Detroit luxury brands is nearly 60 or older.

You might think, "Well, they're expensive cars. Naturally, they're going to be bought by consumers in their peak earning years." But that's not exactly right. The average age of Lamborghini, Land Rover, and Infiniti buyers, for example, falls in the late 40s. In fact, Land Rover's average, 47.9 year-old consumer is markedly younger than the average Scion buyer, who's 49.1.

In other words, average purchasing age stems from a complex calculus of earning power, auto features, and brand image, so making sweeping generalizations about older shoppers as a whole is tricky. It's probably best to just look at the ten brands with the oldest buyers and make a few educated guesses about how each made the list.

10. Mercedes-Benz: 54.6 years old
Mercedes has a high price point, yes, but so does BMW, whose average buyer is 50.9, or Audi, at 50.3 years old. Our guess is that Mercedes' styling and reputation for durability has particular appeal to older consumers. 

9. Chrysler: 54.7 years old
Though the average age of its fans is falling, stodgy models like the 300 still seem attractive to mature types.

8. Smart: 55.3 years old
Smart has three things going for it (and only three, so far as many of us are concerned): its cars are cheap, they boast relatively good fuel economy, and they're easy to park. For shoppers on fixed incomes who make not be as agile as they once were, those are important factors to consider.

7. Bentley: 56.2 years old
It's not just that Bentleys are expensive: they're also built like battleships. (Squint hard enough, and you could mistake one for a Chrysler 300.) Though the company's done well at creating a "look", that look probably isn't reeling in the younguns.

6. Jaguar: 56.6 years old
This one's a little confusing to us, because style-wise, Jaguar is awfully attractive. Perhaps its higher sticker prices are keeping the cool kids at bay.

5. Lexus: 56.9 years old
No surprise here. Many of us believe that Lexus needs a big makeover to shake off its fusty reputation as THE choice in cars for suburban lacrosse moms.  

4. Cadillac: 59.5 years old (tie)
Though it's still got a long way to go, GM has been doing a good job of "youthening" the Cadillac brand thanks to good ads and newer, smaller, higher-tech models. 

3. Bugatti: 59.5 years old (tie)
In this case, the link between money and age probably holds true. Few 40-somethings can handle sticker prices that graze the $2 million mark.

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