How Young People Are Endangering the Car Industry

Михаил Руденко / Getty Images

For some reason, younger Americans are buying fewer of the vehicles sold in the United States and old people are buying a larger percentage. As of 2017, more than half the new cars bought in America were by people over 55 years old. Within three decades, many of those people will be off the road, and they may not be replaced at all.

New research by the Green Car Congress looked at cars and light trucks sold by buyer’s age in 2007 and 2017. In the earlier year, 31% were bought by people 55 and older. That number was 52% in 2017. Worse for the industry, in 2007, 13% of cars sold in America were bought by people 65 and older. That number rose to 27% in 2017.

At the other end of the spectrum, in 2007, 45% of cars sold in 2007 were bought by people under 45. That figure was only 28% two years ago.

The American car industry has sold over 17 million cars and light trucks for five years in a row. This year may be the sixth. Most of the worry about the auto business is that a recession will damage the total. Another worry is that, as cars last longer, people will turn them in less frequently. That number is now 11.8 years for cars currently on the road and has gotten longer as time passes.

Another theory is that self-driving cars will become the core of more carpools. People will be picked up at home or their places of work and be driven to their next destinations. The theory goes that this will encourage people to ride together, although this theory is still poorly formed. There is no reason to believe that the rise in electric cars will undermine the total units sold in the United States, which means the electric car should hurt the industry very little while lowering how car engines damage the environment.

Total new car sales across the world’s largest car markets are already in trouble. The United States is the second-largest market in the world. (These are the best and worst cars sold in America.) While its sales have remained steady, sales in China, the world’s largest car market, are falling. They are in the European Union as well.

In America, as the aging buyer is not replaced, the car industry will struggle, and the one large market in the world that currently drives the car industry will falter.

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