The age of vehicles driven by American has crept up again and is expected to go up again slightly in 2015, according to a new survey by IHS Automotive.
Tom Libby, an IHS consultant, said the average age of vehicles is now the highest has been since R.L. Polk, which was recently acquired by IHS, began calculating the average age of the American vehicle fleet. The average age of vehicles in the U.S. will creep up another notch to 11.5 years in 2015, he predicted.
Consumers are keeping vehicles longer and the vehicles last longer, Libby said. But the age of the U.S. fleet will begin to drop beyond 2015 because the number of vehicles purchased during the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 is relatively small compared to the number of vehicles sold in the years following the recession. The size of the vehicle fleet in the U.S. could shrink as more vehicles are scrapped.
Americans are also using the vehicles less.
Libby noted the number of miles driven by Americans has stopped growing in recent years and after years of growth during the years before the recession is relatively flat. A combination of rising gas prices, a higher unemployment rate throughout the economy and demographic shifts has contributed to the “flat line” in vehicle miles driven.
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“It’s sort of a mega-shift,” noted Libby, adding that the actual number of miles driven by Americans has actually declined in three of the last seven years. Younger drivers don’t travel as far as older “Baby Boomers,” he said. This is partly a function of the unemployment rate among young drivers, who are also less passionate about cars than their parents.
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In addition, as sales of new vehicles have picked up in the years after the recession there has been a fairly dramatic shift towards smaller four-cylinder engines. In 2008, according to Polk data, 41% of the vehicles sold in the U.S. had four-cylinder engines.
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Fifty percent of the new vehicles sold in the U.S. had four-cylinder engines in 2012. The four-cylinder share of the market grew to 55% in 2013, Libby told the IHS Spring Automotive Conference in suburban Detroit and is poised to grow even larger as manufacturers bring on more cylinder engines.
“We’re seeing a very big move to smaller engines,” added Libby, who noted that three cylinder engines will soon appear in vehicles sold in the U.S.