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

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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?

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

More by Edward Niedermeyer

Join the conversation
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.

  • Lou_BC Ironic, the Honda Ridgeline, a truck that every truck guy loves to hate is in 6th place.
  • 28-Cars-Later I keep forgetting I own it, but the space look on the ext cab reminds me of my 'Yota pickup of the same model year. I'm pretty sure there is some vintage of Hilux which features the same looking ext cab window (maybe '88?) its a shame these things are mostly gone and when available are $1,000,000,000 [INSERT CURRENT CURRENCY].
  • Sayahh Imagine if Ford had Toyota design and build a Mustang engine. It will last over 300k miles! (Skip turbo and make it naturally aspirated.) Maybe Yamaha will help tune it...
  • Sobhuza Trooper Isuzu's crime was to build some damn good trucks.Shame on them.
  • El scotto Listen, unless you were Lord Headly-Stempmoor or such when you got off the off the boat, boot in Canada, you got the short end of the stick. People got on the boat, these days a plane, to escape famine, becoming cannon fodder in yet another stupid war, or the government thought it was A-OK to let soldiers kill you. Juneteenth is just a way to right one of the more bad ideas in the American experiment. Instead we have commenters who were buying tater chips and diet soda at Wal-Mart and got all butt-hurt because they heard someone who wasn't speaking English. I'm going to go fix a couple of frankfurters with salsa and guacamole and wash them down with a lager or three