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Mileage shift to older vehicles boosts aftermarket

With fewer new vehicles sold during 2020 and 2021, billions of miles that would have been recorded by newer cars and light trucks have shifted to older models

Fort Wayne, Ind.—More than four million fewer new cars and light trucks were sold in the U.S. during 2020 and 2021 compared to annual sales during the previous five years (2015 through 2019), according to Lang Marketing in a new report. At the same time, older cars and light trucks, particularly those over 12 years of age, expanded their share of vehicles in operation (VIO).

“This downturn in new vehicle sales and the growth of older vehicle age groups are changing the age mix of cars and light trucks on the road and shifting billions of annual miles from newer to older vehicles,” stated the analysis. “This will help to increase aftermarket volume.”

The following are key takeaways from the report.

Four Million Fewer Vehicles Sold
Lang Marketing estimates that more than four million fewer new cars and light trucks were sold in the U.S. during 2020 and 2021 compared to the record-high 17 million in annual sales during 2015 through 2019. Lang expects that the new vehicle annual market in the U.S. will remain below 17 million for at least two more years, and perhaps longer.

Two factors have caused this loss of new vehicle volume: the economic and social consequences of COVID-19, and the shortage of computer chips, which are critical for vehicle production.

Annual Miles Differ by Vehicle Age
Americans drive new vehicles more annual miles than they drive older cars and light trucks.
Vehicles five years of age and newer average nearly 14,000 miles per year on U.S. roads compared to fewer than 8,500 miles by higher vehicle age categories.

Annual Mileage Shift to Older Vehicles
With fewer new vehicles sold during 2020 and 2021, billions of miles that would have been recorded by newer cars and light trucks have shifted to older models. The growth of vehicles over 12 years of age has also boosted the total mileage of older cars and light trucks.

2020 and 2021 Mileage Shift
Lang Marketing estimates that a total of 120 billion miles shifted from vehicles five years of age and newer to older cars and light trucks during 2020 and 2021, due to the downturn in new vehicle sales. The growth of older vehicle age groups has also increased the mileage of older vehicles.

Lang states that the growth of older vehicle groups shifted an additional 210 billion miles from newer groups of cars and light trucks to older models.

Future Mileage Shift
This mileage shift, topping 330 billion miles during 2020 and 2021, will continue for the next several years, as computer chip shortages, supply chain issues, inflation, and other factors (many directly related to the pandemic) continue to play havoc with vehicle production, reducing vehicles sales in the U.S.

Annual Product Use Shift
The mileage shift from newer to older vehicles has caused a redistribution of aftermarket product use across vehicle age groups. This product volume shift is being boosted by the higher repair rates per mile for older vehicles.

More Repairs Per Mile for Older Vehicles
Not all miles are equal in their generation of auto repair. As older vehicles are driven “harder,” they require more aftermarket repairs per mile than newer cars and light trucks.

Future Aftermarket Growth
The increasing repairs of older vehicles (greater product and service volume required per mile) will help boost car and light truck aftermarket product and service sales for the foreseeable future.

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