It may seem odd that carmakers go to great lengths to attract the youth market — Toyota even went so far as to create a youth-oriented brand in Scion — when you discover that six out of every 10 new-car buyers are at least 50 years old, according to a recent study by J.D. Power and Associates and AARP. In fact, car buyers 50 and older made up 62.3% of new-car sales last year, or 5.6 million of the new cars sold, the report says.
The large demographic of older buyers makes sales of youth-oriented cars skew to older buyers, too. Buyers age 50 and older made up about 64% of Chevrolet Cruze sales in 2011 and made up 62% of Ford Focus sales and 52% of Ford Fiesta sales. Nearly 66% of hybrid sales were to the older buying demographic, too, led by the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid (72%), Honda Civic Hybrid (69%), Toyota Prius (66%) and Ford Fusion Hybrid (68%). Of the more than 286 vehicle models measured by the study, eight in 10 attributed at least 50% of their sales to buyers over 50.
It wasn't always this way. In 2001, this segment of buyers comprised only 39% of the new-car market, according to the study. Also in 2001, buyers age 18 to 34 comprised 24% of the market, and that percentage has slipped to just 13% in 2011, according to the study. The younger demographic has been affected more by the downturn in the economy, resulting in fewer young buyers who are able or willing to buy a new vehicle.