When you see a luxury car being ridden on the road more often not there is a retiree in the driver’s side.
Richard Emmons, 83, likes to spend his weekends cruising around in a 1995 Jaguar convertible with a big 12-cylinder engine. His weekday drive is either a 2009 Volkswagen Eos or the $82,000 Audi A8 sedan he bought in November. After all, this octogenarian needs something reliable for his 10-mile commute to the Pratt & Whitney plant in Windsor, Conn., where he works full-time as a jet engineer. “I’m bad at retiring,” Emmons says. “I don’t really have a lot of hobbies anymore. I just like cars and investing.”
American seniors have never been healthier or wealthier. At the same time, cars have never been crammed with more features to safeguard drivers with fuzzier vision, slower reactions, and stiffer necks. Those forces have created a powerful economic engine for car manufacturers. This might just be the first time ever that one of the most promising demographics for the auto industry is represented by Social Security recipients.
“Honestly,” says Harley-Davidson Chief Marketing Officer Mark Hans-Richer, “we sell new bikes to guys in their 80s all the time.”
The roads in America are going gray. From 2003 to 2013, the number of licensed drivers over the age of 65 surged by 8.2 million, a 29 percent increase, according to U.S. Census data. The very old were particularly stubborn about pulling over for good. There are now about 3.5 million U.S. drivers over 84, a staggering 43 percent increase over a decade ago.
On the other end of the age spectrum, teenagers no longer have the income or inclination to own a car. Over that same 10- year period, the ranks of drivers under age 20 declined by 3 percent.