Families and aging populations see benefits in Big 3’s shift to larger vehicles

Automakers are responding to consumer trends that have been moving away from sedans and are investing in larger vehicles such as SUVs, trucks and crossovers.

Three-row SUVs are the preferred vehicle to transport a family and redesigned compact SUVs are capturing the needs and interests of an aging population, says U.S. Sales Analyst for Ford Motor Company Erich Merkle.

The kids have friends, they have hockey, they have soccer, they have all these different events that they are involved in and they need an SUV to carry them and take care of their basic needs on a daily basis,” says Merkle.

Meanwhile, automakers have invested in what their vehicle fleets can offer. Wayne State University Teaching Fellow Cathy Cuckovich says auto companies adapted their manufacturing to a consumer base that enjoys larger vehicles.

They’ve begun to make different options, different sizes, build them off of even car platforms, so the ride has become better, more luxurious, more sporty. So they’ve given consumers more choices and consumers have embraced those,” says Cuckovich.

One of the demographic groups embracing the changes in vehicles are Baby Boomers. Merkle says Baby Boomers who bought SUVs or larger vehicles when they had a family still prefer to drive vehicles that simulate the feeling of those larger vehicles.

As Baby Boomers reach an age where physical factors start impacting driving ability, larger vehicles can help compensate. Wayne State University professor of Occupational Therapy and a director of the University’s Institute of Gerontology Cathy Lysack says vehicles that sit up higher can help aging drivers who may find it hard to move around.

You still need to be able to turn your neck, do a good shoulder check and make sure you can see the traffic around you. And as we get older, sometimes that’s harder to do. But if you’ve got good visibility, which a lot of SUVs do, you might choose that.”

Ford’s Erich Merkle says the automaker expects SUVs and larger vehicles to hold a greater portion of the market in the coming years. In fact, he says the company believes SUVs and crossovers will occupy nearly 50 percent of the market within the next five years.

Families with aging drivers who need certain amenities will have more of the automotive market focusing on their needs in the years ahead.

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