Automakers/Dealers Faced with Car-Buyer Conundrum

The Detroit Bureau

While it is true that many Amer­i­cans are out there buy­ing new cars, and sales are boom­ing, stud­ies indi­cate that many more are hang­ing onto their cur­rent vehi­cles.

Where do automak­ers and their deal­ers fit in this mix?

Automak­ers are enjoy­ing sales results rem­i­nis­cent of their boom years ear­li­er this cen­tu­ry, but even as of buy­ers begin flood­ing show­rooms again, cash in hand, the aver­age age of cars and trucks in the U.S. has climbed to a record 11.4 years.

The aver­age vehi­cle age jumped from 11.2 years last year, accord­ing to R.L. Polk & Co. And the increase pos­es poten­tial oppor­tu­ni­ties for both new vehi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers as well as parts and ser­vice ven­dors who will be need­ed to keep the aging Amer­i­can auto fleet run­ning.

The aver­age age of the typ­i­cal Amer­i­can pas­sen­ger cars was slight­ly high­er than for trucks. In 2013, the aver­age age of pas­sen­ger cars was 11.4 years, up from 11.3 years in 2012, while the aver­age age of trucks in 2013 was 11.3 years, up from 11.1 years in 2012.

The fig­ures have been climb­ing steadi­ly over time as just 10 years ago the aver­age age of a vehi­cle was 9.7 years.

While the ris­ing age and ris­ing sales num­bers may seem to be in con­flict – the indus­try may top 16 mil­lion units this year com­pared with just 10.4 mil­lion in 2009 – there’s a sim­ple rea­son for the results.

The num­ber of vehi­cles between six and 11 years old are shrink­ing, as they’re being trad­ed in for more fuel-effi­cient cars and trucks, but the num­ber of vehi­cles 12 years and old­er are ris­ing: a trib­ute to the oft-tout­ed improved qual­i­ty of cars and trucks.

In addi­tion to the fact that America’s vehi­cles are old­er than ever, the coun­try is trend­ing toward hav­ing more vehi­cles than ever. There were 247 mil­lion U.S. and trucks reg­is­tered in 2013, which is just shy of the record 250 mil­lion in 2008. Polk esti­mates that fig­ure will grow to 260 mil­lion vehi­cles by 2018.

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