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Carmakers Hope Young Buyers Will Go For Hatchbacks

March 19, 2002

After years of decline, hatchbacks are suddenly hot again, according to a Wall Street Journal story by Sholnn Freeman. Toyota Motor Corp.'s Matrix and General Motors Corp.'s Pontiac Vibe, both introduced to showrooms in February, are just two of a growing list of hatchbacks hitting the market.Nearly all of them are aimed at the same customer demographic, according to the Journal: the elusive 20-something buyer. The latest entries illustrate the importance car makers are assigning to hatchbacks in their strategies to win over young buyers. Both Toyota and Pontiac, whose buyers' average age hovers in the mid-40s currently, are desperately trying to gain ground in the youth market.Not long ago, hatchbacks still carried a stigma for their tiny size and ungainly appearance. A lot of people drove them in the early 1980s because they were the cheapest way to get decent mileage and room for stuff in one package. But hatchbacks fell out of favor as the economy recovered, gas prices fell and baby boomers flocked to big sport utility vehicles.Now automakers think lots of post-boomers are ready to accept updated hatchback designs. J. D.Power & Associates, the Agoura Hills, Calif., market-research firm, estimates hatchback sales will grow to 630,000 vehicles this year from384,000 in 2000, and make up 4 percent of the U.S. market, up from 2.2 percent two years ago.The number of hatchback models on sale will increase to 23 this year, from 15 two years ago, according to Power's projections.
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