Weekend Head Scratcher: Why Aren't Compact Cars Youthful?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
weekend head scratcher why aren t compact cars youthful

Well, the problem isn’t so much that compact cars aren’t youthful… it’s that the buyers of compact cars are surprisingly un-youthful. The C-Segment, compact cars in the class of Honda’s Civic, Toyota’s Corolla, Ford’s Focus and Chevy’s Cruze, are typically thought of as “Kid Cars,” or first-time automobile purchases for younger buyers. That stereotype may still be true, but if it is, the young buyers aren’t actually buying the cars. This week, Ford’s executive in charge of launching compact cars like the forthcoming 2012 Focus turned my perspective on the C-Segment upside down by telling me that Ford’s research showed that the average age of a compact car buyer was… get this… 57 years old. Given that TTAC has questioned the viability of the Buick brand for having an average buyer age in the low-to-mid 60s, it’s worth considering the reasons for the surprising age of C-segment buyers. And while we’re at it, let’s throw another stereotype on the fire, namely the old chestnut that compact cars are “basic transportation” for folks who can’t afford a car in the next class up. According to Ford’s data, 50 percent of C-Segment buyers come from households making $75,000 per year or more.

I wish TTAC had more of this kind of demographic data to share, so we could track changes in compact car-buying demography over time, but it seems fairly clear that the compact class is attracting older, more affluent buyers than it once did. So we want to know: how do you interpret these trends? Will older, richer buyers continue to downsize, or is this a short-term phenomenon driven by gas prices and economic recession? Meanwhile, what impact will this shifting demography have on compact cars themselves?

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3 of 128 comments
  • Threeer Threeer on Feb 01, 2011

    @ genuine...because many people (such as my mother) have NO desire to worry about the maintenance and upkeep of a 15 year old car. And who says that somebody is automatically financing said car? And sure, while the E320 will do 0-60 in 7 seconds (and the Hyundai Elantra only in 8.7), the fuel economy, reliability, features and warranty more than make up for the relative panache that might come from driving around a 15 year old MB. I can think of many people that place a much higher value on that versus the "privilege" of seeing the three-pointed star out over the hood.

  • Sector 5 Sector 5 on Feb 05, 2011

    How was the “middle class devastated by the bubble burst”? Mattpete just one question - which planet are you from?

    • SimonAlberta SimonAlberta on Feb 07, 2011

      Joss, I don't agree with all that Mattpete says in his post but his general point that MOST people are relatively unaffected is quite unassailable. If you've still got a job and can afford your commitments, which is the case for most people, what is the problem? Sure, there are a lot of people who HAVE been affected and most businesses have experienced some negative issues so, of course, when you look at the big picture it is easy to think all is doom and gloom. Overall, though, the recession has just been a blip. I'm not saying it hasn't had some far reaching effects but, for MOST people when we look back at this period 10 or 15 years from now it will most likely not have had TOO much effect on most of us. So I think referring to a "devastated middle class" is a bit melodramatic.

  • BEPLA I can make a guess why this car is in the junkyard:A severe lack of maintenance, causing catastrophic system failure - most likely the engine locked up from a lack of oil changes.
  • Vvk The expansion of Tesla Supercharger network has been astonishing. They are popping up everywhere. Still nowhere near enough at busy spots especially in densely populated areas like NJ and California.
  • Kwik_Shift Equus paved the way for Genesis luxury
  • SCE to AUX "...memories of those shoddy Excels faded."Not really, since such comments appear in nearly every article about H/K cars.As for this one, who knows... maybe the 2nd owner ran it 40k miles without an oil change and destroyed the engine, then balked at the $10k replacement cost.
  • ToolGuy Last ad: Is that The Dude doing the voiceover at the end? 😉