Generation X, born in the early 1960s to the late 1970s, has
always been awkwardly slotted between their baby-boomer elders
and their Generation Y or millennial juniors.

Those bookending generations are larger. The boomers have enjoyed
more cultural and financial power, while millennials are more
digitally astute.

Gen Xers have been perceived as slackers, or as a cynical, jaded
cadre. But the demographic group is now entering its prime
earning years, and Ford has discovered an interesting difference
between Xers and boomers.


Ford Explorer SportFord

“Peak earning years for members of Generation X are between 47
and 54 years old, and these consumers have a more practical,
experiential and family-oriented mindset than Baby Boomers did at
this stage of life,” said Sheryl
Connelly, Ford’s manager of global trends and futuring
, in a
statement. “Boomers felt the need to display their status in more
obvious ways than Gen-Xers do.”

But that doesn’t mean Xers are skipping out on car
ownership, or choosing to avoid trucks and SUVs. In fact, Xers
are showing an affinity for Ford’s Explorer Sport SUV, which
starts at about $45,000. But there’s a story in that, because the
Explorer, while a snazzy SUV, has long had utilitarian
association.

Gen Xers buying Explorers make enough income — $175,00o
annually — to go for an outright luxury SUV from BMW, Mercedes,
Audi, or Range Rover, but they’re making a decision based on an
assessment of features rather than an impression of a
brand.

This is actually part of a larger trend in the auto
industry, as traditionally mass-market vehicles acquire “content”
— as it’s called in the business — that formerly would have been
found mainly on upper-crust cars and trucks.

Ford is benefitting. Citing a study by MaritzCX, the carmaker
said that the Explorer Sport has the “highest percentage of Gen X
buyers of any non-luxury SUV in the United States.”