Baby boomers, whose rebellious ways gave rise to the term "generation gap" a half century ago, are breaking with their parents in another way: They are still buying new cars even as they enter their golden years.
The billions automakers spend to woo the children of boomers might be better used to target older drivers, a study by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute suggests.
The new study says 55- to 64-year-olds, among the oldest of the boomer class, is now the group most likely to buy a new car. Four years ago, that distinction went to 35- to 44-year-olds.
"You shouldn't be chasing the younger people, you should be looking at the older people," Michael Sivak, author of the study, told Bloomberg.
The recession is one reason boomers are still turning up in showrooms. It meant that millions of Americans born from 1946 through 1964 were forced to extend their working and peak earnings years.
"People's nest eggs were decreased, including their retirement portfolios, by the recession," Edmunds.com economist Lacey Plache told Bloomberg. "We can expect these people to be in the work force longer and, as a result, buying cars longer."
Almost 93 percent of Americans age 60 to 64 had a driver's license in 2011, up from 84 percent in 1983. That's probably why consumers age 55 to 64 had the highest rate of vehicle purchases in 2011, while the youngest age groups had the lowest rate.
The study showed that even consumers age 75 and older bought cars at a higher rate in 2011 than 25- to 34-year-olds and 18- to 24-year-olds.