The 2015 Detroit Auto Show Opens To Gas Prices From The 1970 Boomer Heyday

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As the 2015 North American International Auto Show opened to the public in Detroit last weekend, the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.08. After adjusting for inflation, this is the equivalent of 34¢ in 1970 money – a penny less than young Boomers actually paid that year according U.S. Department of Energy data.

B4B CEO

C. Barry Robertson, B4B CEO

“Boomers have learned to ride the gasoline price roller coaster over the years, and along the way they revolutionized America’s new car buying habits as old favorites failed to adapt, and lost ground.”

As the North American International Auto Show opened to the public in Detroit this past weekend, price tracker GasBuddy.com reported the national average for regular gasoline was $2.08 per gallon.

According to consultancy Boomers for Boomers (B4B), after adjusting for inflation, this is the equivalent of 34 cents in 1970 money – a penny cheaper than the actual average of 35 cents for that year based on U.S. Department of Energy/DOE records.

After converting 85 years of DOE historical data to 2014 dollars, B4B analysis shows American Baby Boomers experienced five distinct gasoline price phases:

  •     Steady declines when growing up – from around $2.50 in the 1950s to about $2 in 1972
  •     Disruptive spikes from the mid-1970s through 1980-1981, when the average first hit $3
  •     Historic lows averaging $1.85 from the late 1980s through 2003
  •     Dramatic escalation after 2004, peaking at record highs above $3.50 in 2011-2013
  •     A return to good times – what the Washington Post has described as the old normal

The B4B historical analysis also shows Boomers adjusted to a lifetime of gyrating gas prices by changing America’s new car buying habits.

In 1970, domestic nameplates had an 85% market share and Volkswagen sold 570,000 units, 44% of all imports bought that year. Since that time, according to the most recent Automotive News data for 2014, Detroit’s Big Three market share has fallen to 45%. And VW is now far back in 7th place among foreign car brands, with sales of 367,000 vehicles and a share of just 4% of the import category it once dominated.

“Boomers have learned to ride the gasoline price roller coaster over the years," says B4B CEO C. Barry Robertson, “and along the way they revolutionized America’s new car buying habits as old favorites failed to adapt, and lost ground.”

Citing previous research showing Boomers buy more new cars than Germany, he fears conventional thinking by automakers may hamper their opportunities in the new fuel price environment.

“It’s ironic that, although Boomers have adapted constantly, some manufacturers rigidly exclude older Americans from their advertising. With a return to lower fuel prices, the marketplace is about to become a whole lot more dynamic,” Robertson says “and failure to engage consumers who have already taken that wild gasoline price roller coaster ride will be costly.”

About Boomers for Boomers (B4B)

Based in Boulder, Colorado, the Boomers for Boomers network of B4B certified consultants, researchers and strategists helps Millennials and overseas brand managers engage consumers in the 50+ space.

The firm publishes the free 15th Nation Newsletter to introduce non-Boomers to opportunities among what it calls America’s most adaptable generation.

CEO C. Barry Robertson began his consulting career at Marplan, the market research division of Interpublic. He was a co-founder of J. D. Power & Associates before going independent.

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C Barry Robertson