Ford, Nissan Design New Models for Aging Baby Boomers

By: Correy Putton

Crossovers are selling like hot cakes in America. Low-riding SUVs like the Nissan Murano and Ford Edge that combine attributes of off-roaders, MPVs and estates are rapidly gaining market share. Ford has also predicted that the crossovers will cover a big share of more than three million sales a year in America by the end of the decade as more and more automakers are joining in the crossover bandwagon.

At present automakers are starting to look for more ways on how they can improve further the design and features of their crossover in order to become more competitive in the market. Currently manufactured cars are designed for younger family buyers but as this population ages their needs also change and in the process they tend to look for something different. Automakers would like to be ready to answer these changing needs.

America's population is continuously ageing and it is seen that by the end of the decade approximately 57 million ranging from 50 to 64 years old consumers which is a 38% increase compared to the year 2000 according to University of Michigan. Everyday ten thousand Americans turn 50 everyday.

Ford has already introduced their concept crossover called the Airstream at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show - a vehicle, which they say, will satisfy consumers especially retirees who love to travel. Ford's Airstream is a joint venture between Ford and Airstream Trailer Company which is the maker of iconic American aluminum streamlined caravans of the 1950s. According to Ford Group Design Vice-President J Mays, "We're seeing demand for recreational vehicles."

The Airstream is far from the traditional truck-based RV. It has a hybrid powertrain enabling it to achieve a fuel consumption of 41 mpg. It can cover 25 miles on pure electricity. Its styling looks as if it was based on Stanley's Kubrick's sci-fi film 2001 rather than the airstream trailers. Ford's Airstream features illuminated orange window surrounds and asymmetric doors.

Aside from Ford's Airstream another crossover with similar layout was unveiled at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show designed also for aging baby boomers-the Nissan Bevel. This car is specially designed for 45 to 60 years old men who are "hobbyists" or DIY enthusiasts who always carry lots of things while traveling around.

According to Nissan Design American designer John Cupit the Bevel was a "category buster" and designed for people who just don't want an off-roader or an MPV but for men and also women with hobbies, who love to tinker with things and handymen. The Bevel, just like the Airstream has an asymmetric door layout with a single offside driver's door and wide-opening double suicide doors on the nearside plus a rear tailgate that flips over to surprisingly turn into a loading shelf.

Another feature of the Bevel is its overt '70s styling element which could become part of Nissan's design "house style" if ever in the future. The oblong grille incorporating top-of-the-line such as the front lightning, and the configurable flat-panel dashboard is likely to become a part of future Nissan design concept.
Ford and Nissan have not yet confirmed the productions of the Airstream and the Bevel but for consumers the concept vehicles presented by the two automakers is a clear indication that they are looking beyond the current trends which is a good thing. Hopefully the two concept crossovers will make it into production.

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