Few automakers this year have announced the discontinuation of models in their lineups. It’s not uncommon for vehicle portfolios to shift based on car-buying demand from consumers. But there’s a disheartening trend some critics have noticed. Sports cars, including the fun and flashy coupes and convertibles, have become less popular in recent years. And though several motivating factors might be behind the decline, the change in buying habits may point to one sad and glaring reason. It’s a reason that might have implications in the years ahead and could be the death of the sports car.
The next generation of buyers isn’t purchasing sports cars
New car enthusiasts, according to some, are born every day. As older generations introduce their favorite muscle cars or classic rides to younger family members, auto enthusiasm becomes generational. Today, younger car buyers aren’t touching sports cars as much as their grandparents and parents did. It could be a sign of an underlying economic issue too.
Young car-buying trends by the data
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Road & Track critics took a closer look at the data and historic car-buying numbers. In 1990, the average annual income for a young man was $21,393. Back then, you could buy a new Mazda Miata for a base MSRP of $14,000. Fast-forward to 2019: That same young man is earning around $42,212. The Miata base model retailed for $26,500. But the housing market has skyrocketed, with numbers averaging 7.6 times the younger man’s wages. This inflation may be driving younger car buyers to stick to more affordable cars and not fun, typically more expensive sports cars.
It’s an affordability and income inequality issue
Affordability boils down to inequality too. Young women in 1990 were earning an average of $12,589 per year, and in 2019, $35,491. Every income bracket in between demonstrates women earning less than their male co-workers. And on Reddit threads, it’s easy to see that the reality is today’s young car buyers’ incomes can’t sustain the MSRPs of sports cars. Some of the thread comments point out it’s just a matter of not being able to afford sports cars. The burdens of the increased cost of living, including housing and insurance alone, affect how the younger generations spend the marginal incomes they’re earning.
A millennial shift in priorities
According to Forbes, even millennials aren’t buying expensive houses when they first set out on their own; most are renting at exorbitant rates. And their modest paychecks are dedicated to unprecedented college loan debt and sustaining a basic, penny-pinching living as they start out in the world. Many are still driving hand-me-down rides or buying more affordable, used, and practical models. Road & Track points out that wage growth has practically stalled over the past 40 years, meaning expenses are growing while incomes are shrinking.
Of course, there are always a few notable exceptions to the data, and sports car enthusiasts will say they’ll always find a way to enjoy their favorite rides. But an inflated housing market, huge loan debts, and shrinking incomes are siphoning increasing numbers of sports car buyers out of the market. It’s an inequality issue for some and an affordability problem for others.
As these trends continue, the shift translates to the potential disappearance of the sports car-buying public in general, which could affect the industry’s production of fun and flashy cars. It’ll be a sad world in the years to come if the sports car becomes extinct as a result.