More stories related to SAEDETROIT – As the industry rushes to accommodate the flood of young buyers coming into the market, General Motors Corp. is not abandoning the aging population.

These drivers “aren’t used to making compromises,” Peter Davis, director-interior strategy and quality, says during an interiors panel at the Society of Automotive Engineers conference here.

Nevertheless, more compromises may be demanded of older drivers as a growing number of vehicles are cut from the high-riding SUV mold.

Davis says the auto maker currently is sifting through “a whole plethora of studies” designed to better understand the 65-year and older market and meet their needs with vehicle interiors. He says much of the baby boomer-driven evolution in design will be centered on improving ingress and egress, especially as taller vehicles proliferate the marketplace.

Additionally, GM will look at placing grab handles in more convenient locations; seat passengers higher in passenger cars; and better integrate steps into taller vehicles, Davis says.

GM will design SUVs to accommodate older drivers.

Designing interiors for the aging boomer, traditionally born between 1946 and 1964, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is critically important given the volume and escalating life expectancy of people in the demographic.

The Census Bureau reported in 2000 that there were 35 million people aged 65 or older. The fastest-growing age group in America, however, was 50-54 in 2000 and is quickly approaching the 65-year-old threshold, ballooning 55% from 1990-2000. The second-fastest-growing age bracket was 45-49 years of age. The third fastest was the 55-59 group.

Given the census data is five years old, GM’s urgency in meeting the needs of older drivers is easy to understand.

GM’s official stance on the issue is laid out on its corporate website. “Research medical data, globally, is showing that persons are living much longer, remaining vital and interested in use of freedom of mobility in personal transportation, and that the trend is actually increasing,” the auto maker says.

“Our programs include design features that both comprehend and extend communication needs for older drivers with needs and wishes for instrument panel, vehicle operation and communications characteristics optimized for safety and comfort.”

jstoll@primediabusiness.com