The average age of light vehicles in operation (VIO) in the U.S. has risen again this year to 11.8 years, according to new research from business information provider IHS Markit.

From 2002-2007, the average age of light vehicles in the U.S. increased by 3.5 percent. From 2008-2013, however, the increase was 12.2 percent. Over the last five years, the average age increase has returned to its more traditional rate – aging by four percent over this time period.

“Better technology and overall vehicle quality improvements continue to be key drivers of the rising average vehicle age over time,” said Mark Seng, director, global automotive aftermarket practice at IHS Markit. “The 40 percent drop in new vehicle sales due to the recession created an acceleration in average age like we’ve never seen before. In the last couple of years, however, average age has returned to its more traditional rate of increase.”

Light vehicles in operation in the U.S. have now reached a record level of more than 278 million according to the analysis -- an increase of more than 5.9 million (2.2 percent) since 2018. This represents one of the highest annual increases the U.S. auto industry has seen since IHS Markit began tracking VIO growth – second only to the 2.3 percent growth in 2016.

“The increasing VIO fleet is providing a robust new business pipeline for the aftermarket,” said Seng. “A larger fleet means more service and repair opportunities in the future.”

The average age growth of the vehicle fleet will bring new opportunities for the automotive aftermarket, according to the analysis. The shift among various age categories continues to be a closely-monitored measure, as it is important to those who manage inventories of required parts and plan for sales and service activity accordingly.

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