Tyre [buyer] aging

The question of how long it is before a tyre reaches its sell by date is a familiar subject. A few years ago this column covered the rising age of tyre company directors and raised the question of what this meant for individual succession plans in particular and the market in general. But there is one specific type of “tyre aging” that we (and to the best of my knowledge) no-one has ever touched – how the tyre trade pitches its products and services towards “older” consumers.

Every source you consult appears to say the same thing. Forget what marketing people call “silver surfers” (although with more people than ever research tyre purchases online, this is likely to have increased relevance to our topic as time passes), now the focus is on “silver drivers”. We have all heard that the average age of the population is getting older, but did you know that there are already 4 million over 70s on the roads currently? According to the RAC Foundation, the number of people over 70 who hold valid driving licences passed four million for the first time in the last quarter.

At present, drivers aged 70 and over must renew their licences every three years. Of course eye-sight and general health remain important considerations before pensioners set off in their 7-series or Honda Jazz, but before anyone cries foul, the point is not to judge the capabilities or otherwise of the average older driver – let’s be clear the arrogance of youth is the biggest cause of accidents and insurance claims on our roads – rather the point is to ask the question of whether or not this particular clientèle are being served as well as the industry could.

The AA and RAC publish data on what the motorist pool looks like with relative regularity and websites – most recently whocanfixmycar.com – remind motorists that they must also properly maintain their vehicles by visiting their local mechanic for scheduled checks, an annual MOT, and by considering vehicle adaptations (and this inevitably has implications for the way that tyre shops do their business too). So we know that the driver pool is getting older and that younger drivers are being priced out of the market, but do we need to consider what impact this information might have on retail and sales procedures?

A few years ago a leading manufacturer’s tyre retail operation realised that it not only had poor customer satisfaction scores amongst female shoppers, but also had the lowest proportion of lady tyre buyers amongst it peers. When the company realised this, managers immediately changed tack strategically and redesigned both premises and selling style as a result. Realising that ladies hold disproportionate levels of buying power when it comes to car repairs, their response was swift and by all accounts successful. The question is who is doing this for older drivers?

With the number of elderly drivers are set to continue to soar – the government predicts that of the UK citizens alive today, around 10 million will reach the age of 100 – and therefore this question is not going to go away. And with pension ages rising every year, the numbers still working (and therefore still needing their car in a way that they otherwise may not have) it is an interesting subject to address. Of course it may turn out to be nothing, but with research from the AA revealing that by 2030, more than 90 per cent of men over 70 will be behind the wheel it is certainly worth considering.


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