Who is a potential car buyer? Auto makers have no clear answer to the question when the age of the customer is in question. Cars and SUV’s are not manufactured with a specific age group in mind.
Auto makers prefer to launch vehicles that appeal to youngsters. Most of the cars on roads are designed for youngsters to get in and out with ease and to drive around with elan. They may be missing the real trend, if recent data is any pointer.
A study commissioned by Ford Motor Co in Europe found that the number of male drivers aged above 65 years has increased 89 percent in 20 years. Female drivers in the same age group increased 21 percent in the same period.
The trend is witnessed in all automobile markets, including the fastest growing China. Auto makers are forced to redesign their products to suit the aged drivers. Yet the change in attitude is at a nascent stage. A design meant for aged drivers will suit the youngsters as well.
Car makers have admitted that they have been ignoring middle-aged and senior drivers. Look at the commercials. All of them are targeted at a young audience, ignoring the fact that the average consumer is getting old. Moreover, seniors have more purchasing power to grab an expensive car.
Japan shows the way
The car makers are waking up to the discrimination related to age. The path was shown by Japanese manufacturer Mazda, which launched its mid-segment MPV M5 with an aged customer group in mind. Two large sliding doors and easy controls are meant for seniors. Even passengers aged above 40 can get in and out of the car without discomfort.
Mazda’s initiative was not surprising since Japan’s population is aging faster than in the United States and Europe. Suzuki WagonR (Vauxhall Agila in some European markets) is another Japanese car that suits the elders.
WagonR owners in India will testify to the comfort the car offers to aged people, particularly to get in and out. The latest model is more comfortable than the previous ones.
Long way to go
The future belongs to the cars which come with visible and audible warnings and night vision features to assist the driver. Just ease of access won’t do anymore.
Here’s a wish list from the aging driver.
High roof, large doors, seats that are elevated when the doors are opened, seats that rotate to allow the passenger to get in and out with ease, dashboard dials large enough to be noticed fast, instrument controls with color coding, large switches, rear-view cameras, a body styling that allows easy parking and emergency call facilities.