‘Youth’ Cars? Wait Till You See Who’s Buying Them!


Wall Street Journal

A few years ago, smaller cars like the Toy­ota Scion and Kia Soul were intended to attract younger buy­ers who wanted some­thing more ‘hip’ and less costly, but mar­ket appeal has now changed.

Keep read­ing to find out who are the prime buy­ers of such trendy models.

When Toy­ota Motor Corp. rolled out its Scion brand nearly 10 years ago, its goal was to attract a cer­tain buyer it felt wasn’t being addressed by its staid Camry and Corollas—namely the hip, tech-savvy and young.

Kia Motors used danc­ing ham­sters to attract urban hip­sters to its Soul compact.

Today, how­ever, the brand’s line of funky-looking small cars is attract­ing buy­ers like Leslie Olsen, a 65-year-old retired uni­ver­sity direc­tor from Golden, Colo., who recently leased a bur­gundy 2012 Scion xB.

Appeal­ing to the young has auto mak­ers design­ing and mar­ket­ing to the “mil­len­nial generation”—that group of con­sumers in their 20s and 30s whose num­bers could rival the post­war baby boom that has dom­i­nated the auto mar­ket for decades.

But senior cit­i­zens are mak­ing Swiss cheese of those efforts. Sev­eral years ago, for instance, Kia tar­geted youth­ful buy­ers with its Soul using com­mer­cials star­ring break-dancing ham­sters. The Soul, which offers a sound sys­tem with light-ringed speak­ers that pulse to the beat of the music, is now one of the top 10 cars bought by baby boomers, accord­ing to Strate­gic Vision, a San Diego, Calif., research firm.

In recent years, auto mak­ers have devel­oped a bevy of pint-size mod­els like the Chevy Sonic, Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta and Kia Soul, and pro­moted them using social-media, music fes­ti­val spon­sor­ships, and in some cases, dare­devil stunts. To hype the new Chevy Sonic, Gen­eral Motors Co. filmed the sub­com­pact para­chut­ing out of a plane for an online cam­paign aimed squarely at 18-to-30-year-olds.

But the largest cus­tomers for these cars, about 42% of buy­ers this year through May, are closer to retire­ment age, accord­ing to reg­is­tra­tion data com­piled by car-shopping web­site Edmunds.com. The pro­por­tion is up from just 29% five years ago.