Automakers think they have something that both Generation Xers and baby Waves of 20-somethings are graduating from college and getting jobs, making empty nesters of their parents. Automakers see this as an opportunity to sell sportier cars with a little personality (read: coupes) to both younger buyers with a taste for style, and the baby boomers who no longer need minivans.So several automakers have been introducing new two-door models.
Honda redesigned the two-door Accord last year, Chrysler released the Sebring and Dodge Avenger two years ago, while General Motors in the past two years has launched coupe versions of the Oldsmobile Alero and Pontiac Grand Am and Grand Prix, just to name a few.
Toyota, for one, explicitly cites baby boomers when discussing the target audience for coupe. Marketing brass at Toyota reckon that something like 1.5 million people become empty-nesters every year.
But the notion that a coupe is a reward vehicle for empty-nesters has surprised some analysts and consultants.
"It's manufacturers, despite all evidence to the contrary, insisting that American auto buyers haven't changed since the 1960s," said Eric Noble, principal of Auto Pacific Inc., an automotive consulting and research firm in Santa Ana, Calif. "The reality is, a coupe is not a reward, it's a punishment."
Noble said that only 20 percent of consumers age 50 to 64 that now drive a midsize car, such as a Camry, will consider buying a two-door car in the future, according to a survey by Auto Pacific.
About 20 percent of buyers in their 30s driving a mid-size car would consider a two-door, and 29 percent in the same segment in their 40s would consider one.
The main reason coupes have been losing popularity is because they don't offer much in exchange for sacrificing two doors, Noble said.
"What do you get in return for what you give up?" Noble asked. "Absolutely nothing."