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Polk Study Shows Retro Models Slowly Drawing in Younger Buyers

             Baby-Boomers Still Expected to Carry Most of Success

    DETROIT, Jan. 8 A study released today by Polk indicates
that new retro models are beginning to bridge the gap between young and old
car buyers.
Three models were chosen for Polk's "retro" study - the Chrysler PT
Cruiser, Volkswagen New Beetle and Plymouth Prowler.  Based on recent buyers,
these models are primarily popular with those 25 to 54 years old, with roughly
two-thirds of this group falling into the Baby-Boomer segment (35-54 years

    Popularity of Automobiles

    Age                   PT Cruiser    New Beetle     Prowler

    18-24 Years Old           0.8%          1.3%         1.1%
    25-34 Years Old           6.9%         11.2%         9.7%
    35-44 Years Old          25.8%         27.4%        31.1%
    45-54 Years Old          41.6%         36.3%        33.8%
    55-64 Years Old          19.3%         15.7%        18.6%
    65-74 Years Old           4.4%          6.4%         4.4%
    75+ Years Old             1.2%          1.7%         1.4%

    Source: Polk, January - June 2000 vehicle buyers.

    "As we're seeing, these types of retro vehicles were expected to attract
seasoned and established vehicle buyers, but these stylish products also
appeal to a relatively younger audience with many years of purchasing power
ahead," said Pete Affeld, performance consultant for Polk.

    "In the case of the New Beetle, we're seeing a stronger contribution from
18 to 34 year olds, which should be pleasing to Volkswagen given the effort to
align this model with relatively younger consumers.  These classic designs
bring back good memories for those who grew up in car-crazy America of the
1950s and 1960s, while the new look and new choice of colors provide an added
bonus to attract buyers under their mid-30's as well."

    When comparing buyers over a two-year period for the New Beetle and
Prowler, Polk noted subtle changes in the age composition for these two retro

    "We're seeing a slight shift in New Beetle buyers that indicates more
attraction from the mature segment (age 55+) compared to those buying this
same car two years ago," said Affeld.  "Additionally, the share of Baby
Boomers buying this car also dropped a bit.  This indicates that the New
Beetle is starting to appeal to age groups that weren't the first to own it
upon its launch in 1998."

    In the case of the Plymouth Prowler, Polk's analysis sensed a starker
shift toward relatively younger buyers over a two-year period.  While less
than 5 percent of Prowler buyers represented those under 35 years old, the
share in this segment more than doubled to nearly 11 percent two years later.
Prowler buyers over 55 years old also dropped by nearly 10 percent during this

                    Percent of Buyers - Early vs. Current*

    Age             Early New     Current New   Early Prowler  Current Prowler
                  Beetle Buyers  Beetle Buyers     Buyers          Buyers
    18-34 Years Old    13.5%         12.5%          4.4%            10.8%
    35-54 Years Old    66.2%         63.7%         61.4%            64.9%
    55+ Years Old      20.3%         23.8%         34.3%            24.4%

    Source: Polk.

    *Note:  Current buyers are from the 1st and 2nd quarter of 2000 CY.  Early
New Beetle Buyers are from 1st and 2nd quarter of 1998 CY, while Prowler Early
Buyers are from 4th quarter 1997 and 1st quarter 1998.

    Affluent Buyers No Longer Only Ones to Own Retro Models
    Polk found that for the New Beetle and Prowler, many high-income
households were among the first to buy the New Beetle and Prowler, with nearly
half of all early Prowler buyers and nearly a quarter of all early Beetle
buyers having household incomes of at least $125,000.  However, recent numbers
indicate that buyers of these vehicles now come from a variety of income
levels, with most buyers falling in the $50,000 - $75,000 household income

    Income                 New Beetle                      Prowler
                   Early Buyers  Current Buyers   Early Buyers  Current Buyers

    Under $15,000        3.2%         5.7%             2.6%          5.0%
    $15,000 - $19,999    1.2%         2.0%             0.0%          2.3%
    $20,000 - $29,999    5.5%         7.3%             1.8%          5.4%
    $30,000 - $39,999    7.1%        11.3%             3.5%          8.9%
    $40,000 - $49,999    8.2%        14.0%             4.4%         11.5%
    $50,000 - $74,999   22.8%        28.1%            20.2%         24.0%
    $75,000 - $99,999   17.1%        14.4%            10.5%         15.7%
    $100,000 - $124,999 12.3%         6.8%            14.9%          9.5%
    $125,000 and over   22.4%        10.4%            42.1%         17.7%

    "Vehicles with extra flair, such as concept cars, have always captured the
attention of the public.  Actually owning a vehicle with such unique styling
is becoming more widespread; it's no longer restricted to car collectors,"
said Affeld.  "Affluent and able-buying households can obviously influence the
adoption process and retro vehicles are quickly noticed by being on the road
as soon as they are available."

    Source: Polk.

    Note:  Current buyers are from the 1st and 2nd quarter of 2000.  New
Beetle Early Buyers are from 1st and 2nd quarter of 1998, while Prowler Early
Buyers are from 4th quarter 1997 and 1st quarter 1998.

    Retro Sales Skyrocket

    According to Polk, new vehicle registrations and PT Cruiser sales have
been skyrocketing, growing by 1,800 vehicles every month since the model was
introduced.  If this trend continues, as it did with both the Prowler and the
New Beetle in their first year, then the PT Cruiser could reach into sales of
over 20,000 vehicles a month.  Meanwhile, sales of Beetles and Prowlers show
no signs of declining.  Sales of both models have been steadily increasing
since September 1998, although not at the same rate as in the first year of

    So what does the future look like for this trend of retro vehicles?  As
sales continue to be strong for the three vehicles mentioned above, Ford and
Chevrolet are planning to introduce their own classic-designed retro vehicles
this year.  As noted by industry sources, Ford is bringing back the
Thunderbird that will feature a look similar to the 1950s model with an
aluminum egg-crate grille, leather-wrapped instrument panel and rocket tail-
lamp lenses.  Chevrolet will introduce its SSR (Super Sport Roadster), which
is a combination sports car, pickup, and other roadster-like features.

    "This effort shows the continual movement toward refined-niche marketing
in the automotive industry in order to offer a little bit of everything to
everyone," said Affeld.  "With the continual fragmentation of SUVs and the
rejuvenated appeal and lure of roadsters, automakers will continue to use
retro models as a draw to gain market share and brand dominance."

    About Polk

    Polk has served the automotive industry for nearly 80 years and is the
longest standing curator of automobile records in the United States.  Founded
in Detroit in 1870, Polk launched its motor vehicle statistical operations in
1922 when the first car registration reports were published.  It now provides
automotive solutions to nearly every segment of the motor vehicle industry as
an analytical consultant and statistician, as a provider of database-marketing
services, as a supplier of vehicle histories, and as a data enabler for
geographic information systems.  Based in Southfield, Mich., Polk is a
privately held global firm, currently operating in Australia, Canada, China,
France, Germany, Holland, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.