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Average Vehicle Age Remains Steady at 11.4 Years

June 9, 2014

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — The combined average age of all light vehicles on the road in the U.S. remained steady at 11.4 years, based on a Jan. 1 snapshot taken by IHS Automotive.

Total light vehicles in operation (VIO) in the U.S. also reached a record level of more than 252 million vehicles — an increase of more than 3.7 million (1.5%) since last year, said the IHS Automotive analysis from July 2013. In addition, new-vehicle registrations outpaced scrappage by more than 24% for the first time in a decade.

The average age is in line with the trend shift first seen in 2013, in which the combined fleet of cars and light trucks on the road is older than ever before. New analysis, however, indicates the average age of light trucks has increased in the past year to the same age as passenger cars, both at 11.4 years. This milestone marks the first time this has happened since 1995, when the data was first reported.

“In our history of tracking, we have seen a gradual increase in the average age of vehicles on the road,” said Mark Seng, director of aftermarket solutions and global aftermarket practice leader at IHS Automotive. “This year, we’re seeing somewhat of a plateau in the market, and expect it to remain over the next few years, without a major change in either direction. We attribute this to a number of factors, including the economy and the increasing quality of today’s automobiles.”

Looking ahead, IHS said it predicts the average age of vehicles will likely remain at 11.4 years through 2015, then rise to 11.5 years by 2017 and 11.7 years by 2019. This rate of growth is slowing as compared to the last five years due to the substantial increase in new-vehicle sales.

The number of vehicles scrapped in 2013 was significantly fewer than in previous years, with slightly more than 11.5 million vehicles scrapped during the 12-month timeframe analyzed by IHS Automotive. In comparison, a record high of more than 14 million vehicles were scrapped in 2012. This while VIO is up 1.5%, a rate the auto industry hasn’t seen in the U.S. market since the 2004-2005 period.     

With the shift in ownership comes shift in the age of vehicles within segments of the overall fleet, which is important to business planners in the aftermarket and service industries so they can manage inventories of parts required and plan for sales and service activity accordingly, officials said. 

Based on the growth of new-vehicle registrations in the past few years, IHS Automotive forecasted that the volume of vehicles zero-to-five years old will increase by 32% over the next five years while vehicles in the six- to 11-year-old category will decline by 21%. Because of improved quality and consumers holding their cars and light trucks longer, vehicles 12-plus years old continue to grow and will increase by 15% by 2019.

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