Generation X, born in the early 1960s to the late 1970s, have always been awkwardly slotted in their Baby Boomer elders and their Generation Y or Millennial juniors.
Those bookending generations are both larger. The Boomers has enjoyed more cultural and financial power, while Millennials are digitally more astute.
Gen Xers have been perceived as slackers, or as a cynical, jaded cadre. But the demographic group is now entering its prime earning years, and Ford has discovered an interesting difference between Xers and Boomers.
“Peak earning years for members of Generation X are between 47 and 54 years old, and these consumers have a more practical, experiential and family-oriented mindset than Baby Boomers did at this stage of life,” said Sheryl Connelly, Ford Manager of Global Trends and Futuring, in a statement. “Boomers felt the need to display their status in more obvious ways than Gen-Xers do,” she added.
That doesn’t mean Xers are skipping out of car ownership — or choosing to avoid trucks and SUVs. In fact, Xers are showing an affinity for Ford’s Explorer Sport SUV, which starts at about $45,000. But there’s a story in that, because the Explorer, while a snazzy SUV, has long had utilitarian association.
Gen Xers buying Explorers make enough income, $175,00o annually, to go for an outright luxury SUV from BMW, Mercedes, Audi or Range Rover, but they’re making a decision based on an assessment of features, rather than an impression of a brand.
This is actually part of a larger trend in the auto industry, as traditionally mass-market vehicles acquire “content,” as it’s called in the business, that formerly would have been found mainly on upper-crust cars and trucks.
Ford is benefitting. Citing a study by MaritzCX, the car maker said that the Explorer Sport has the “highest percentage of Gen X buyers of any non-luxury SUV in the United States.”
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