To grandmother’s car we go
To celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday, she decided to buy herself a new car. I can definitely see where I get some of my genes. She is older than the company that built her 2000 Camry, and she’s still a good driver (granted she no longer uses the interstate, and every time one of her friends yells “Road Trip!” she pretends to forget where she put the car keys.)
Because I earn a living by talking about cars, and I’m sure I am her favorite grandson, I was going to take the lead in finding a new Grammy-friendly ride. A new Camry was going to the top of my list, until I looked at the parking lots around her senior development. I noticed a distinct trend towards Toyota’s mid-sized sedan.
Grammy tells a story where she was recently at the social hall in her development. While she was waiting for a canasta game to begin, someone came in a said, “Whoever owns the Camry, please move it, or it will be towed.” It looked like half the hall’s Metamucil kicked in all at once, as the place cleared for everyone to go check on his/her car.
So now in my mind the Toyota is no longer a sure-thing for someone as distinguished for my grandmother. Now that it’s open for debate, I’m wondering what will the seniors of the future be driving? Until I get my answer (please help), I’m going to try and understand this situation a little better…
For starters, how did Toyota get this odd honor? In general, Toyota is having a problem with its average buyer age creeping up. The Camry has a lot to do with it for two reasons, both of which have to do with the second generation (1986-1990) and third generation Camrys (1991-1996). These cars offered something that looked a little different than the standard sedan at the time and were dead-on reliable. So the Camry became the benchmark in the family sedan category. Because everyone wanted to imitate the Camry, its styling went from distinct to ubiquitous. The Camry fans who had teenagers in the mid-90s are now the retirees and/or they have spread the Camry love to their parents.
Another look around the parking lots at my grandmother’s place revealed a second truth. My grandmother is actually a two-time offender for being part of the community’s status quo.
She traded in a 1991 Mercury Grand Marques to get her Camry, and from what I can see this looks like the Mercury held the previous title of “most likely to be lost at the south Florida grocery store”. Most of the cars older than 1999 seem to be a Grand Marques, which is a new key to figuring out the future retiree car.
The ideal car for many of these people to float off into retirement would have been a large Cadillac or Lincoln, but it was either too expensive or too flashy. In step the cars for Buick and Mercury. They provided the same luxury but at a smaller price point, and you’re not telling the world how much someone overpaid to buy the family home back up North.
The Camry replaced these cars when people realized that grandkids could fit in the back just as easily as the land barges from before. The lower starting price meant that they could tack on plenty of options that were unneeded like sunroofs and V6 engines. It became the retirees GTI.
So that brings us to now, and the problem of figuring out what’s the next vehicle to get stuck in the right lane with its turn signal permanently on. If I can figure this one out, then maybe I avoid the everyday car and instead get Grammy a car as distinctive as she is (yes, I really feel this way).
I look to the senior development’s parking again for the answer. While there are still plenty of seventh generation Camrys (2007 and up) stacked up in the handicap spaces, a new brand is starting to emerge: Hyundai.
Hyundai may be coming out with some nice driver’s cars like the Genesis coupe, but their rush to proving reliability has many of its latest owners yelling “Bingo!” Hyundai is providing cars at a better price point than Toyota, and it is offering a longer warranty. Now that modern medicine has extended people’s lives a little longer than planned, and once-reliable stock portfolios are now worth more as toilet paper, “value” is the new buzzword in retiree driving. So watch out Hyundai, that loud clicking sound you hear may be legions of walkers heading your way.
But that still doesn’t help me with my search. What is the future retiree’s car? More importantly what is Grammy’s ideal car? I tried to convince her that a Subaru WRX fit into her budget and had ample room for her friends, but she saw right through it. So now I’m off on a serious search for something simple, reliable and distinctive. The hunt is on.