With most consumers favoring smaller foreign cars and the US auto industry seemingly headed for the toilet, there is still one demographic that Detroit has a solid hold on… Retirees. Buyers over 65 are the last hope for the good old American car. In some dealerships, upwards of 85 percent of all Buick buyers are 55 and older. That’s an ominous sign for the future of American autos.
The over-65ers look at brands like Buick, Lincoln and Cadillac as status symbols. Those brands have what advertisers call the “Mind Share” in that demographic. Retirees remember a time when the only people driving those cars were celebrities and other high profile members of society; now they want in to that high-profile group of Cadillac drivers. Plus, older folks like familiarity, they know these brands, they’ve heard them their whole life.
Check out the list of the top ten cars most popular with retirees:
What’s going to happen when this generation of retirees stops driving? It’ll be bad news for US car-makers since studies have shown that younger generations (even the baby boomers that are almost ready to retire) prefer sporty, performance type vehicles as opposed to the large cloud cars on this list. So Detroit is going to have to reshape it’s image if it wants to get a piece of the future retirees. As for now, here are the best sellers with the old folks:
(Update: The models are ranked based on the percentage of buyers age 65 or older, using market research data from J.D. Power and Associates)
10. Ford Taurus
Ahh yes, the King of the American Roads. The Taurus is one Ford’s best selling models, in fact it was the best selling car in the 90s PERIOD. Ford went through some weird phase where all the cars had names starting with ‘F’. They got rid of the Taurus title and called it the “Five Hundred”, which was a moronic move considering the name recognition they had with the original name. Either way, the Taurus is back now, and old people still love it; 35% of all buyers are 65 years old or older.
9. Lincoln MKZ
Compared to the rest of the cars on this list, the Lincoln MKZ is small. I know, only on a list of retiree’s favorite cars could a 3,500 pound sedan be considered small. In actuality, it’s still a big car with lots of interior room. It’s marketed to a somewhat younger demographic, but just like the Taurus, 35% of it’s buyers are 65 or older.
8. Cadillac STS
The STS is probably the “sportiest” car on this list, although like the rest of the cars, it has a roomy interior and the blind spot/back up cameras that older people like. Retirees love the Cadillac brand, they remember it as being the ultimate car brand. 39% of all Cadillac STS buyers are over 65.
7. Toyota Avalon
The only foreign car on the top ten list is Toyota’s flagship sedan. That’s because Toyota specifically designed the Avalon to compete in this particular market of over-65ers.
A lot of auto magazines have called the Avalon a “Japanese Buick”. In 2005, Car and Driver even rated it at the top of a group of premium sedans, a niche where American cars usually dominate. Because of all that press, it’s gaining popularity with the retirees, 39% of all Avalons sold went to them.
6. Mercury Sable
The Sable is the Ford Taurus’ upscale cousin, and just like it’s always been, it’s essentially just a Taurus with a Mercury badge. Old people love it though, nearly half of all Sables sold (48.5%) have gone to people over 65.
5. Buick LaCrosse
The top five on this list is where the real favorites are; there is a substantial jump in the percentage of over 65 buyers as we go from #6 to #5 on the list: Only 48.5% of all Sables want to old folks, meanwhile, almost 64% of all Buick LaCrosse sales were to people over 65.
The LaCrosse is a roomy sedan, although it a bit smaller than it’s brother the Lucerne. It has old folk favorites like OnStar, power seat memory buttons, and radio controls on the steering wheel. We’re in the over-50% zone now, so it’s a safe bet to avoid all Buick LaCrosses you see.
4. Buick Lucerne
The Lucerne is sort of the beefier version of the Buick LaCrosse, plus is has the all-important parking assist and back-up cameras. It also has an interesting electronic system called Lane Departure Warning system that alerts the driver if the car starts to move out of its lane. Good to know. Still, with a full 67% of all Lucerne’s out there belonging to over 65ers, I’ll still steer clear of them, lane departure warning or no.
3. Mercury Grand Marquis
The Mercury Grand Marquis costs a little more than half the price of the Lincoln Town Car, and the two cars are virtually identical. I have never understood it. Same engine, nearly the same interior size. They both have a trunk large enough to hold a small herd of elephant seals. Plus, I actually like the look of the Grand Marquis better than the Town Car. Maybe when I turn 65 I’ll change my view. If you discount cops and other fleet drivers, a full 69% of all Grand Marquis drivers are over 65.
2. Cadillac DTS
The DTS is slightly larger and less sporty than the STS. It’s actually a direct competitor to the Lincoln Town car, so appeals to retirees for all the same reasons. Brand recognition, quality image, and it has a lot of electronic whiz-bangs and doodads, like the same lane-departure warnings and blind-spot alerts that many of the other top ten have.
Honestly, there is about a RCH of difference between the Caddy DTS and the STS. The STS is a bit bigger and costs a little more, but that’s where the differences end.
1. Lincoln Town Car
Who else but the Town Car, the godfather of old man cars. More than 75% of all Town Cars out there on the road today are driven by someone over 65, so keep an eye out. The Town Car is probably one of the roomiest sedans for less than $100k. It has more interior space than the flagship BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The car is just the archetypal old man car: huge interior, rear-wheel drive, floating-on-a-cloud suspension, plush seats, and a powerful engine. Great combination for the over 65ers, bad one for you and me, since grandpa can be cruising at 85 and not realize it until he plows into your Jetta. Watch out for Town Cars.
By the way, all the cars on this list get less than 20 mpg in the city, and less than 30 mpg on the highway.