Midlife Crisis

Midlife Crisis or Living the Dream?

  • By Lori

On a recent sunny day trip from the San Francisco Bay Area, I noticed many gray haired gentlemen flying through traffic in Porsches.  My middle-aged brain automatically registered “midlife crisis male.” My husband weighed in with a different perspective: “He’s driving the car of his dreams!” Though I hate to admit it, the numbers prove he’s right.

Detroit is back!

In a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, Senior Editor Jo White reported that America’s muscle car mania is back. For the first time since Jimmy Carter was president, automakers Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge are boasting retro models that combine in-your-face design and big horsepower.  Retro models on the market now include:

  • Dodge Challenger
  • Ford Mustang
  • Chevrolet Camaro

What’s truly unique is that these cool cars have huge engines and are clearly targeted to baby boomers who lusted after these cars in their teens and early twenties. We grew up and settled for models that accommodated our parenting lifestyles in our twenties and thirties: compacts during the oil crisis; we created the minivan era for our new babies; and graduated to sport utility vehicles.

“Many Baby Boomers are experiencing another phase in their life, the nest is empty and because they have reached a heightened income level giving them both time and financial freedom, they chose vehicles that provide them with a luxurious, safe feel and youthful, sporty drive,” according to Jesse Toprak, vice president of trends and analysis at TrueCar.com.

What are the dreams of Boomers?

Jim Gorzelany, contributor to Forbes, identified the top 10 cars for the generation born between 1946 and 1964:

  1. Porsche Boxter – 84.2% sold to Boomer consumers
  2. BMW 6 Series Convertible – 79.8% sold to Boomers
  3. Mercedes-Benz SL – 70% sold to Boomers
  4. Land Rover LR2 – 67% to empty nesters
  5. Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder – updated alternative to retro muscle cars
  6. Audi A5/S5 Cabriolet – 66.1% sold to Boomers
  7. Volvo C70 – 65.3% sold to Boomers
  8. Chevrolet Aveo – 65.1% purchased by Boomers; hardly luxury, this frugal choice may reflect the financial issues older consumers are experiencing. This could be a second car choice or one for a student
  9. Mercedes-Benz M-Class Hybrid – 64% sold to Boomers
  10. Chevy Corvette – 63.8% sold to Boomers

While Boomer buyers certainly dominate the luxury car category. most middle-American Baby Boomers won’t be purchasing from the list above. So the muscle car options from Detroit provide new, affordable options.

Automakers rejoice!

American automakers have struggled to survive this economy, so Baby Boomers and our passion for either muscle cars or luxury vehicles is a shot in the arm. Ford’s Mustang Facebook Page has more than a million “likes.” Chevrolet marketing exec, John Fitzpatrick, has reported that Camaro drivers cluster in two age groups: 20-30 year olds and 45-plus.

This craze, however, is threatened by a government push for fuel economy standards, from 56 mpg to 60 mpg by 2025. Performance car manufacturers will need to explore their choices, and boomers will need to make difficult decisions.

Cool, but practical

The empty nest is tempting! Boomers no longer need vehicles that take children’s needs into account, so we purchase those dream vehicles. Sometimes we’re happy about the purchase, but often it comes with regret. Below are a few considerations for the perfect vehicle for the next stage of life:

  1. Your commute. Do you benefit from a green vehicle or a sporty two-seater?
  2. Transmission. Is a manual the best choice for your daily driving journey?
  3. Grandchildren. Are you a grandparent who needs a vehicle to accommodate a car seat?
  4. Is smaller better? Sports cars are cute, but if your lifestyle is about gardening, antiquing or home improvement, little cars will not do. Take a look at the new boomer vehicle–the crossover!

We have solved this in our household. I drive a hardtop convertible and my husband drives the crossover that brings home all of my treasures from sales and markets. I’m struggling with who gets the car seat for our new grandson!

Guest blogger Lori Bitter is the Chief Executive Officer of Eons, Inc., an online community for baby boomers and beyond.