Baby Boomers Are Getting Too Old for Sports Cars

Baby boomers are starting to outgrow their midlife crisis years, and thats bad news for automakers who want to sell sports cars.

It was a sign of things to come this month when Ford Motor Co. idled its Mustang plant for a week as sales for the year fell 9 percent. Other sports cars have faded at a similar rate, and even stalwarts like the Chevrolet Corvette and most Porsche models are slumping.

While there are still plenty of buyers who love the passing lane, automakers face a pesky reality. Men born between 1946 and 1964, who buy most sports cars, are cruising past their peak spending years. And as age 70 beckons, folding up like an accordion to get into the front seat of a speedy roadster is hardly the prescription for an aching back. Some are even turning to high-powered versions of luxury sports utility vehicles.

Boomers are starting to age out of sports cars, said Eric Noble, president of the CarLab, a consulting firm in Orange, California. When you get into your 60s, comfort becomes more important. Sports cars are not going away, but the market will get smaller.

The generational handoff wont help sports cars much either, Noble said, because there are fewer Generation Xers, or those about 35 to 50 years old. And the boomer children — the millennial generation — arent yet earning enough money to buy Mustangs, which start at $24,915, let alone a Corvette Z06 that can sell for more than $100,000, Noble said.

Ford will probably sell more than 100,000 Mustangs this year, but through July about 25 percent have gone to car-rental agencies and other corporate fleets, according to IHS Markit, which tracks vehicle registrations. Even with that many cars going to fleet buyers, sales are off.

This year, about 40 percent of Mustang buyers were baby boomers, down from 50 percent in 2013. The good news is that consumers in their 20s and 30s now make up 22 percent of Mustang buyers, compared with 15 percent three years ago, said Mark Schaller, marketing manager for the Mustang. But the buyer pool has shrunk.

We are seeing some older boomers move out, Schaller said. The Mustang is a life-stage vehicle.

Corvette, Camaro

Ford isnt alone in seeing declines. Sales of the Camaro and Corvette are down 11 percent and 14 percent, respectively, this year. Part of Camaros drop is because General Motors Co. sells fewer of them to fleet buyers. Retail sales fell only 1 percent.

I dont have one reason why its down, said Todd Christensen, marketing manager for the Camaro and Corvette. Boomers are still buying them, for sure.

Christensen said Chevy is hoping to spark Corvette sales with the new Grand Sport version of the car, which offers more sporty attributes than the base model, such as high-performance suspension, brakes and tires. It comes with an attractive price, too. The Grand Sport starts at $65,000, which is about $14,000 cheaper than the high-performance Z06 model.

Chevy is also trying to market the Camaro to younger buyers by promoting its smaller, cheaper 2-liter turbo engine in a package with high-performance parts that make the car handle like more expensive versions, Christensen said.

Lifestyle Shift

Porsche may be seeing a similar shift, said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with, a car-shopping website. Coupes are no longer seen as cooler than a four-door car or SUV, she said. And with luxury brands like Porsche and Mercedes selling sporty-driving SUVs, the well-heeled can make a more practical purchase and still have some fun behind the wheel.

A car that fits someones lifestyle and is still sporty is a better option than a true sports car, she said.

That makes sense when you look at Porsche. This year and in 2015, the brands passenger car sales have fallen by 8 percent. At the same time, the Macan SUV has grown by 30 percent this year and is now Porsches top seller. Company spokesman Christian Koenig said the sales decline is due to replacement of the 911 and Boxster sports cars, which caused shortages of inventory, and the announcement of a new Panamera coming in January. Porsche believes the new sports cars will once again juice sales, he said.

We dont really see a decline, Koenig said. Sports car sales in the U.S. has been a rock-solid business.

Research shows that car buyers, especially 20-somethings, still like sporty cars, according to Noble of the CarLab. They especially favor classics from the 1970s, the golden age of muscle cars. They just cant afford them yet. And boomers want something comfortable but sporty.

Spirited Driving

Thats why sales of BMWs M edition and the Mercedes AMG are up, he said. Both are high-horsepower versions of existing models. BMW M-edition sales are up 2 percent this yea. AMG sales are down among pre-existing models. Add in the new SUVs, and the performance line is up about 60 percent to almost 16,000 vehicles this year, said Branden Cote, AMG manager for Mercedes-Benz U.S.

What does a high-performance SUV look like? The AMG GLS63 is a seven-passenger, three-ton vehicle that comes with a 577-horsepower engine and starts at $124,000. It also comes with an Airmatic suspension that the driver can lower to the ground if he wants to zip in and out of a tight turn. Thats the kind of sports car that is fueling growth of Mercedess AMG line, Cote said.

Boomers are coming out of pure sports cars, but theyre not willing to sacrifice pure driving, Cote said. The idea of a sports SUV was incomprehensible 10 years ago. Theyre not giving up spirited driving; theyre going to a different type of sporty driving.

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Tesla Shock Means Global Gasoline Demand Has All But Peaked

After fueling the 20 th century automobile culture that reshaped cities and defined modern life, gasoline has had its day.

The International Energy Agency forecasts that global gasoline intake has all but peaked as more efficient cars and the advent of electric vehicles from new players such as Tesla Motors Inc. halt demand growth in the next 25 years. That change will have profound outcomes for the oil-refining industry because gasoline accounts for one in four barrels consumed worldwide.

Electric automobiles are happening, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in an interview in London, adding that their number will rise from little more than 1 million last year to more than 150 million by 2040.

The cresting of gasoline demand shows how rapidly the oil scenery is changing, casting a shadow over an industry that usually forecasts decades of growth ahead. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the worlds second-biggest energy company by market value, shocked rivals this month when a senior executive said overall oil demand could peak in as little as five years.

The IEA doesnt share Shells pessimism. While the agency foresees a gasoline peak, it still forecasts overall oil demand growing for several decades because of higher intake of diesel, fuel oil and jet fuel by the shipping, trucking, aviation and petrochemical industries.

For Philip Verleger, president of the consultant PKVerleger LLC in Colorado and a veteran oil-market analyst, the IEAs outlook is one of the most optimistic outcomes for the global industry.

Refiners across the globe can only hope that this forecast turns out to be right — because all the shows are today that consumption is going to begin falling not in 2030, but probably in 2020, told Verleger. Its the best news a dying patient is to be able to get.

The projections are part of the analysis the Paris-based IEA did for its World Energy Outlook 2016 flagship report. The agency forecast that gasoline demand will fell to 22.8 million barrels a day by 2020 from 23 million barrels a day last year. By 2030, consumption will rebound slightly, reaching a peak of 23.1 million barrels a day, before falling again toward 2040.

The forecast is more pessimistic than the one released a year ago, when the IEA ensure robust demand growth from now until 2030.

Gasoline has been the worlds selection to power automobiles. From the 1950 s onward, when Henry Fords dream that every middle-class American could own a car became reality, gas station jump up next to drive-through restaurants and strip mall and transformed the landscape of America and economies across the globe.

Now, however, vehicle companies — most obviously Tesla, but also incumbents such as General Motor Co ., BMW AG and Nissan Motor Co. — are putting their money, and reputations, behind electric vehicles. With technology improving — especially for batteries — prices are falling. Tax breaks, particularly in China, are helping sales.

Global gasoline demand grew by virtually 20 percent between 1990 and 2015 despite competition from diesel in Europe, where the ga benefited from tax breaks. In the next 25 years, gasoline intake will fell 0.2 percent, according to the new IEA computations. While the number of passenger vehicles will double to 2 billion by 2040, the amount of oil we use for autoes will be lower than today, Birol said.

The biggest victim is likely to be refiners, which have spent billions of dollars over the last two decades to maximize gasoline output at the expense of other fuels. Birol said the changes in fuel-demand growth over the next 25 years will have major implications for the industry, which are likely are gonna have to re-tool their plants.

Diesel Ascendant

Demand for gasoline is likely to be much more affected than heavier gasolines — the refineries configuration will be affected, ” he said.

As gasoline demand sputters in advanced economies, middle distillates, gasolines used to power trucks and planes, will continue to see growth in the next decade as economies expand. And new international rules will require that the heavy, dirty fuels currently used for marine transit be replaced with lower-sulfur diesel in 2020.

Refiners would be wise to target distillates such as diesel in lieu of gasoline as they grapple with fading intake, told Michael Wojciechowski, vice president of Americas oil and refining marketplaces research at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. in Houston.

“Diesel seems to be almost like a utility fuel going forward, Wojciechowski told. Its got its ability to meet a lot of strategic objectives for refiners.

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First Shelby Cobra sells for record-setting $13.75 million

There’s a new reigning ruler for the most expensive American car ever sold at auction. And it’s a modified British sports car with a Ford V8 for the purposes of the hood. Run figure.

The roundish blue shape you see above is the 1962 Shelby 260 Cobra “CSX 2000” a.k.a the first Cobra from lionized car designer Carroll Shelby. It only fetched $13.75 million ($ 12.5 -million bid plus fees) this weekend. That induces it the most expensive American car ever sold at auction.

Though Shelby didn’t know it at the time, this little mod-job would go on to change American sports cars eternally. Now it’s altered the trajectory of American-car values forever, too. Talk about influence.

When this Cobra was first constructed, to make it seem like he’d built more than one, Shelby and his crew repainted it before handing it over to a automobile magazine for review. As a result, the unrestored body athletics dents and chips that disclose different paint colourings beneath the final blue paint job.

Onlookers might glimpse at what appears to be a well-worn sports car and wonder why it’s worth $13.75 million. Its seems don’t impart the car’s significance, though. Without this automobile, and the racing victory of its successors, Shelby would never have been given the chance to give his know-how to the automotive industry.

1962 Shelby 260 Cobra “CSX 2000 “

Image: RM Sotheby’s

That means no GT350 and GT500 Mustangs. Likely, in turn, that entails no vehicles like the Corvette Grand Sport or Camaro Z2 8 from Chevrolet to compete with Ford. Heck, the American muscle wars started in the 1960 s that continues to this day may not have been erupted at all without this car.

So, is it worth $13.75 million? Yeah, I’d say so.

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