Which Cars Do Seniors Really Buy? Why?

Senior Mag highlights that senior citizens buy in excess of 40 percent of new cars and account for 80 percent of luxury car purchases. At the same time, they control 70 percent of disposable income. What are the cars that the mature set is actually buying – as opposed to the vehicles that marketers claim to be so very functional for the aging drivers?

Vehicle Recommendations from AAA

In its 2008 edition of “Going Places,” the magazine “for today’s traveler” proclaimed that declines in mental sharpness, multi-tasking abilities, night vision and joint health were contributing factors to the vehicle choices of elderly drivers still holding on to their licenses. Features that rated supreme were adjustable pedals, power seats, keyless features and large buttons and displays. Buying behavior, they surmised, was driven by creature comfort elements.

Conflicting Marketing Trends

With the influx of baby boomers into today’s retiree demographic, there is a shift in the market that does not sit well with advertisers who enjoy a clearly segmented target group. The Aging Society presented the National Tour Association’s assessment report that highlighted how the “physical realities of aging are resulting in special products (e.g., cars, shoes) that are designed to meet needs of aging boomers while still being ‘hip’.”

At the same time, there is a clear deviation between the boomers who enjoy traveling and those who are looking for means to downsize their lifestyles to functionality over luxury. At this juncture a divide becomes apparent between the demographics going for creature comforts and those opting for austere functionality.

Best Selling Cars of 2011

This brings us to Forbes’ list of 2011’s best-selling automobiles. At the top of the pack is the Ford F-150 pickup, which has such a high step-up that it would not qualify as an AAA-recommended vehicle. Next in line is the Chevrolet Silverado pickup, which is undoubtedly strong enough to pull a large-size motor home. Third in line is the Toyota Camry.

The Cars Seniors Buy – According to TrueCar

TrueCar relied on a 200,000-car-buyer sample of individuals aged 65 and over. Statisticians then tracked 2009 to 2010 buying trends. The results showed a clear favoritism for Buick, Lincoln and Cadillac. Ford was relegated to 15th place with only 19.2 percent of seniors choosing the brand. Favorite models included the Lincoln Town Car, Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS.

“Seniors are looking for a luxurious and comfortable vehicle from a brand they are familiar with and trust, and many seniors grew up with these iconic American luxury brands in their parents’ garage,” the Vice President of Trends and Analysis at TrueCar opined.

Historic Trends Point to Marketing Research Truths

There is a reason why Ford does not seem to have as much of an appeal to the older generation as GM. A Tuck School of Business study highlights that in the 1920s, Ford found itself being eclipsed by GM. By the 1940s, GM commandeered a one in two market share and by 1955, the company registered a record $1 billion in revenues. Clearly, GM is the car company with which plenty of today’s American senior citizens grew up. Not surprisingly, this is the brand to which they return.

Perhaps it is not the gradual decline of faculties that is determining senior buying behavior but instead little more than old-fashioned brand loyalty?

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