Doug Drives: What the Hell Are Old People Supposed to Buy?
When I was a kid, there was a plentiful selection of automobile choices for old people. There were Buicks. There were Cadillacs. There were Lincolns. There were Oldsmobiles. There were even a few Japanese cars that clearly catered to the elderly. “Enlarged Speedometer Font” was an actual option on more than one vehicle when I was younger.
But what about today?
I started thinking about this the other day when I got up behind a 2000-ish Cadillac Deville. This was a great old person car: huge digital speedometer, front bench seat, and giant brake lights that remind you that there’s an old person in front of you, so by God you should be careful. Those brake lights were amazing. They could’ve illuminated your entire home in the event of a power outage.
Well, the Deville is gone, and it’s been replaced by the XTS, which is this advanced new car that has kind of given up on all of the traits that made the Deville so popular with the elderly. The bench seat is gone. The cushy ride is gone. The easy-to-use radio with the huge buttons is gone, replaced instead by confusing CUE and capacitive touch. And there’s even a Vsport model, which has 410 horsepower and a twin-turbocharged engine. This does not scream elderly friendly.
So where have the “old person cars” gone?
Buick certainly isn’t in the old person game anymore. Oh, sure, they still have the LaCrosse — but it’s becoming more and more aggressive and bold with each passing redesign. It’s their flagship model, they treat it like such, and now the majority of them have IntelliLink, somewhat sporty suspension, and lots of high-tech features. The days of the column shifter and the bench seat are long gone.
Lincoln has the MKZ, which I personally find to be absolutely beautiful. But it too isn’t really an old person car. MyFord Touch, transmission buttons, and up to 300 horsepower don’t really scream “elderly car” to me. Admittedly, the ride is still pretty cushy, so maybe it’s about the closest thing you can now get to an old person car.
Even Lexus seems to be abandoning the idea of a car for the elderly. This brand is all about performance now: they have big grilles and big power and a coupe (and now another coupe), and the NX, which is a compact SUV that looks like a cubist painting come to life. They also have that remote touch controller, whose sole purpose — I swear — is to lower their average buyer age by deliberately confusing the elderly.
The simple truth is that if you’re an old person choosing a car today, it just isn’t as easy as it was a decade ago. Car companies are now obsessed with chasing younger buyers: they sponsor events that attract young people, they advertise in media aimed at young people, they style their cars to appeal to younger buyers, and they pack vehicles with technology designed for young users. Quite simply: car companies have seemingly become so scared of getting the reputation of being a “brand for old people” that they’re now actively eschewing older buyers in favor of younger ones.
So if you’re an old person, what do you buy?
The older people I know seem to be gravitating away from traditional “old person” brands — Buick, Cadillac, Lincoln — and into basic versions of mainstream cars. The Hyundai Sonata has a nice ride, a big interior, and controls that aren’t especially difficult to use. Same goes for the Toyota Camry. Same doesn’t go for the Honda Accord, which has two infotainment screens that make things a little more challenging for even a regularly-aged human.
They’re also getting into SUVs. But once again, it isn’t the “old person brand” SUVs, like the Cadillac SRX or Buick Enclave. They’re buying Nissan Rogues, Toyota RAV4s and Ford Escapes. They’re buying easy-to-use vehicles that are easy to get in and out of, and they seem to be doing OK. But you have to wonder: do old people long for the days when they knew Cadillac was making cars specifically for them?
If I were a modern old person, I would be very displeased by the development of formerly elderly friendly luxury brands into youth-obsessed Fortunately, there is one silver lining; one car that will always remain elderly-friendly, as long as it continues to exist: the Toyota Avalon. The Avalon is like the social security of automobiles: it’s always going to be there, in some form or another, as long as there are still old people who need it. It’s the modern day Cadillac Deville.
If only it had those taillights.
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