Friday, July 25, 2003

The Meme that Swallowed the SUV -- Can coverage of the Honda Element escape the "missed-the-demographic" analysis? This Autoweek long-term test update adds a few more column inches. For more on the issue: Mickey Kaus (scroll down to the bottom of the June 4 Element entry), Automotive News's Mark Rechtin (very funny), and Business Week.

While interesting, the assumption's wrong -- Element buyers do skew young. As this other Rechtin story explains, the average age of the Element buyer is 41, which seems geriatric, but ranks the Element 15th youngest of 253 models measured. (The VW Golf GTI boasts the youngest average buyer: a not-exactly-youngster 37.)

Young drivers are rarely buyers of record, even of cars they drive regularly or exclusively. So, the average age figure is not a totally reliable indicator of how well the Element is doing among the flat-belly set. And, anecdotal evidence supports the conclusion that older folks like the Element just as much or more than young folk. For instance, Downshift's definitely outside the demographic, but the Element is on the short list of cars to add to the Downshift family fleet. (Downshift has a short list and likes to pester Mrs. Downshift to review the list whenever possible even though we're not buying a new car any time soon.)

But, in the end does it matter? Maybe Downshift's missing something profound, but isn't the primary measure of a car's success how many get sold? And, aren't a 40-year-old's dollars worth as much as a 22-year-old's?

Update: Mark Rechtin writes for Automotive News, a sister publication to Autoweek, and Autoweek links to some of the Atomotive News stories.