The Sports Car Market Will Be Atrocious After the Baby Boomers Die

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
the sports car market will be atrocious after the baby boomers die

Baby Boomers are getting too old for traditional sports cars. Their purchasing power may have ushered in the initial success of the muscle car (as well as its resurrection), but no 70-plus-year-old wants to obliterate their pelvis crawling into a low-slung coupe or have its rock-hard suspension rattle the dentures out of their mouth.

That leaves the younger generations to champion the sports car going forward, and — I am very sad to say — they will not be up to the task.

While there are still younger consumers who enjoy the pursuit of speed, males born between 1946 and 1964 buy most of the sports cars currently on the market, and their peak spending years are rapidly fading in the rear-view. They also are becoming less interested in uncompromising sports cars when there are performance oriented SUVs and crossovers at the ready. These are options that offer expanded practicality and comfort at the moderate expense of performance. It’s a tempting alternative for someone who grunts in discomfort every time they are required to stand up.

The proof is in the sales. Porsche, for example, has suffered an eight percent drop in passenger car sales from 2015. But their Macan crossover has grown by 30 percent this year, making it Porsche’s best selling vehicle. Speaking to Bloomberg, company spokesman Christian Koenig attributed the decline in car sales to replacement of the 911 and Boxster, which caused an inventory shortage, and the announcement of a new Panamera. While that could be true, it doesn’t mean everyone who was waiting on a new sedan or coupe decided to buy a crossover to tide themselves over. That isn’t how things work.

In the United States, Camaro and Corvette sales were down last year and look to stay there for the rest of this one. Ford just stalled plant production on the Mustang due to reduced demand. And, in a good year, Mazda’s new and highly praised Miata can only expect to bring in half the sales it would have received in 2006.

The winds have shifted, unequivocally. Boomers are getting away from the sports car and there is no one to fill the void. Generation X doesn’t have the numbers and Millennials may not be up the the challenge financially.

The automotive stereotype of Millennials has been that of a college-educated urbanite disinterested in anything but public transportation, perpetually scoffing at your antiquated transit practices. In reality, the average 29 year old is not college educated, lives in the suburbs, and needs to have access to a car just to get downtown, according to statistics published by The Atlantic. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make them good candidates for future sports car ownership, as they also only rake in about $35,000 annually and don’t have the job security or disposable income necessary to feel comfortable buying one.

CarLab, a consulting firm in Orange, California, told Bloomberg that research shows 20-somethings still like sporty cars, but they can’t afford them yet.

Even when presented with a moderately affordable option, Millennials have taken a pass. Subaru’s BRZ and Toyota’s 86 are sister cars that couldn’t be more clearly marketed toward younger buyers on a reasonable budget. Both have suffered a diminishing return on sales in the U.S. since 2013. And it isn’t like every one of previously mentioned American muscle cars doesn’t offer an affordable smaller-engined alternative. In fact, one of the few performance oriented vehicles that has remained popular with younger buyers over the years is the WRX — a practical sporting car that doesn’t have two doors or rear-wheel drive.

With boomers moving over to premium branded crossovers and Millennials too poor to afford even a base model Camaro, let alone a Corvette at twice that price, the mid-range sports car market is going to have some extremely awkward years ahead of it. It’s hard to imagine, but we may actually see the Mustang become a discontinued model someday. I just hope they replace it with something a younger person can actually afford.

[Image: Ceyhun Kavakci/ Flickr ( CC BY-SA 2.0)]

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  • Akatsuki Akatsuki on Oct 24, 2016

    While there are plenty of great hot hatches and amazing sports sedans the real missing piece is a cheap Silvia like rwd sedan. Take the damn GT86 and add some rear doors and a bit of length. Up the engine power 20hp and call it a day.

    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Oct 24, 2016

      Hm. What IS the cheapest small RWD sedan available today in the US? Low spec Q50, or 3-Series, Lexus IS, or the ATS?

  • Drzhivago138 Drzhivago138 on Oct 24, 2016

    Does this mean car shows will no longer be row upon row of Corvettes, Chevelle SSs, Starsky-and-Hutch'd Gran Torinos, and GTO clones? Sign me up! Bring on the Datsun Fairladys, Fox-body Mustang Ghias and Cougar XR-7s, Cobalt XFEs, Syclones, and Turbo Caravans!

  • Syke Congratulations on not mentioning the political possibility. I'm sure that during the reading of the article, I'm not the only one noticing the states primarily listed are primarily considered conservative states. And they're not all states bordering Canada.
  • Redapple2 I want my 5 minutes bck
  • Paul Alexander I'd love to buy a car without infotainment.
  • EBFlex Chrysler has the best infotainment by far. The older uConnect system was bulletproof and never had issues. The newer one based on android auto is a big step backward but it's still very good. Nothing else comes close to Chrysler's infotainment.
  • EBFlex People don't want compromises. They want a vehicle that will match what they have now with ICE which includes very short refueling times, long range, and batteries that don't degrade over a rather short time. In the midwest, people don't live on top of each other. People like their space and are spread out. 30+ mile commutes are common. So is outdoor living which includes towing.Government cars make sense for the coasts where people love to live on top of each other and everything is within walking distance. They don't make sense in areas where it's cold and 40% of your range could be lost. Government cars are just not viable right now for the majority of people and the sales reflect it.