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5 Reasons to Shift Auto Marketing to 50-Plus in 2014

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U.S. auto sales have been racing ahead on the fast track, rising by 1.5 million in the last three years. Fueling the auto industry's acceleration is the 50-plus population, which contributed an amazing 84 percent of that growth. In fact, drivers 65-plus buy twice as many cars as those under 35.

With 2014 now here, the auto industry is looking forward to continuing its rebound. With several high-profile advertising events approaching, including the Super Bowl, which will feature ads from auto companies including Audi, Chevrolet, Jaguar and Hyundai, as well as the upcoming New York International Auto Show, many marketers will continue to focus the majority of their efforts on targeting Millennials; however, the savvy advertisers will be sure to make 50-plus drivers a meaningful part of their targeting strategy.

The following five reasons explain why auto marketers can't afford to ignore the 50-plus auto consumer in 2014:

1. Market Domination

For three years running, 63 percent of today's new auto market has been comprised of drivers ages 50 and up. With nearly 107 million members, the 50+ demographic outnumbers 18 to 34-year-olds by 44 percent and 35 to 49-year-olds by 73 percent. Auto marketers can no longer afford to ignore the largest auto-buying segment.

2. Growth Opportunity

With expected population growth largely driven by 50-plus, their domination of the auto market will only continue in the years ahead. Over the next 10 years, the 50-plus population will grow by over 17 million, while 18 to 34 will grow by just 2.6 million and 35 to 49 by just 2 million. These numbers indicate that marketing to the 50-plus demographic is the key not only to current sales -- but future sales as well.

3. Spending Power

Consumers ages 50 and up can better afford to purchase new vehicles than 18 to 34-year-olds. The average net worth among people 50-plus is $416,000. This number, which is nearly double that of 18 to 34-year-olds, is a result of having more years to accumulate both home and investment value.

4. Active Buyers

After the age of 50, consumers purchase an average of five cars. In fact, one in three people in the 50-plus demographic plans to be in the market for a new vehicle within the next three years. This can be attributed to lifestyle changes such as becoming an empty-nester, buying cars to assist struggling adult children, or buying a car as a reward for reaching the milestone 50th birthday. In contrast, mounting debt and a lack of good-paying jobs mean fewer 18 to 34-year-olds are entering the auto market these days, as they are delaying big-ticket purchases or foregoing them altogether.

5. Plugged In

There's a misconception that the 50-plus demographic is resistant to technology, but the fact is that 8 million Americans over 50 go online every month to gather facts about buying a car. That number has grown by 45 percent over the last five years. The often-overlooked 50-plus consumer is receptive to online marketing messages tailored to their needs.

The 50-plus demographic is the key to continued strong sales for the auto industry, but for brands to stay competitive marketers must make 50-plus consumers their priority in 2014 and beyond.

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Excerpts of this post originally appeared on AARP.org.