Christina Rogers:

Last year, buyers 55 and older accounted for more than 40% of all new car sales, up from 33% in 2008 while buyers between the ages of 18 and 34 represented only 12% of new-car purchases. And that is down from 14% five years ago, according to

One reason auto makers have developed youthful brands and products is to latch onto young adults in the hope of keeping their loyalty as they age and buy more expensive vehicles. However, they face an uphill battle. Some can’t afford a new car or don’t want one because they live in cities where they have public transit, says Michael Sivak, a professor with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Auto makers’ big prize is the “Millennial Generation”—that group of consumers in their 20s and 30s whose numbers could rival the postwar baby boom that has dominated the auto market for decades.

In some cases they find the tastes and pocketbooks of 20-somethings similar to older buyers. Job- and cash-strapped millennials aren’t too different from boomers living on a fixed income, marketers said