Our Northwest

Tables turned: Boomers now top car buyers

Friday, August 16, 2013by  Jon Osterberg

Baby boomers have bolstered the vintage-car market for years, buying – and in some cases, reacquiring – the dream rides of their youth.
   Now, America’s 55- to 64-year-olds have displaced 35- to 44-year-olds as the age group most likely to buy new cars.
   That’s according to a new study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, which notes a reversal in the longtime trend where aging consumers approaching retirement age bought fewer new cars.
   “Baby boomers are trying to extend their youth as long as they can,” said the study’s author.
   Added an auto historian, “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.”
   The Michigan study notes that just 79% of people age 20 to 24 had a license in 2011, versus 92% in 1983.
   In my own baby-boomer youth, we viewed “golden agers” as unhip seniors dressed in checked pants and white shoes, typically steering behemoth land cruisers like Cadillac Eldorados, Chrysler Imperials, or Lincoln Continentals.
   Today I see lots of retirees behind the wheels of reissued retro rods like brand new Camaros, Mustangs, and Challengers, even though ads for those cars target younger prospects.
   If you think that means the market soon might be flooded with low-mileage retro rods as their owners die out, don’t count on it. First, life expectancy is rising. Second, as the news media often reports, baby boomers haven’t saved for retirement like prior generations, meaning they’ll be working – and commuting – for years to come.
   Read the Bloomberg News story that ran in The Seattle Times.

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