Automakers try to revive baby boomers’ interest in sedans

Kyodo News

Automakers are revving up efforts to reignite a passion for once-popular sedans after seeing consumer tastes shift over the past decade to minivans and sport utility vehicles.

They are now trying to revive demand for sedans by targeting the aging baby boomer generation and introducing a string of new sporty and luxury models.

Sedans were popular in the era of the asset-inflated bubble economy of the late 1980s. But following the downfall of the bubble in the early 1990s, sedans took a back seat amid consumers’ shifting whims.

An increasing number of drivers became enamored with minivans and SUVs, giving priority to the practical uses they offered compared with the style and luxuriousness of sedans.

But now that new automobile sales have been following a downward path, carmakers are eager to stimulate potential demand by introducing new sedan models.

The main target is baby boomers who have the money to buy such big-ticket items.

“We would like to secure stable demand from baby boomers who have finished the years of child-rearing,” Mitsubishi Motors Corp. President Osamu Masuko said.

MMC took the wraps off the new Gallant Fortis sport sedan with a 2-liter engine and a six-speed continually variable transmission in late August.

Although the automaker has set a monthly sales target of 1,000 for the Gallant Fortis, the number of orders received during the initial four weeks totaled 3,900 units, almost four times the goal.

MMC officials said 60 percent of the purchasers are 50 or older. A further breakdown of the numbers shows that 34 percent are in their 50s and 26 percent in their 60s or older.

In early June, Toyota Motor Corp. released the fully restyled Premio and Allion sedans equipped with either a 1.5- or 1.8-liter engine.

The Premio posted 4,025 sales in August, up 114.6 percent from a year before, while 2,733 Allions were sold, up 81.0 percent, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

“Sedans are the basics of automobiles,” an industry official said. “They are becoming popular among baby boomers partly because they give owners a certain amount of social status.”