While car sales may be on the mend, demand is still substantially below the 17-million peak the U.S. market saw a decade ago. And a substantial number of the vehicles sold during the last industry boom are going bust, which means a big jump in business for America’s junkyards.
The number of vehicles scrapped during the fourth quarter of 2010 spiked to the highest level seen since the brief Cash for Clunkers program – which was specifically intended to get old products off the road – reports Experian Automotive, an Illinois firm that tracks vehicle sales and registration data.
The number of passenger cars sent to scrapyards or otherwise pulled from operation rose by 28.3% during the fourth quarter compared to the previous quarter. For SUVs, pickups and other light trucks, the increase was an astounding 58.2%.
To put things into perspective, the annual scrappage rate was 5.3% for passenger cars, last year, and 3.5% for light trucks. The vehicles most often junked were built between 1983 and 1992.
For the second half of 2010, that translated into 5.7 million vehicles going off to the junkyard. Another 17.5 million used vehicles changed hands, Experian reports.
That said, there are still plenty of vehicles to go around, according to Experian, which determined that as of the end of the year there were 239,811,984 cars, trucks and crossovers in use in the United States. But the big burst in junkyard business means that number was down by nearly half a million from earlier in 2010.
With U.S. new car sales still off by about 30% from prior peaks, the average age of those vehicles rose by 3.3%, to 9.9 years during the fourth quarter of 2010.