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Age of domestic cars hits record high

A preliminary analysis estimates that domestic nameplate cars averaged a new high of more than 15.2 years at the beginning of 2022

Fort Wayne, Ind.—Domestic nameplate cars continue to increase in age. For more than two decades, domestic cars have reached a new record-high average age each year. Over the past 10 years, the average age of domestic nameplate cars has increased by more than two full years, according to a new analysis.

“The ever-advancing age of domestic cars is the result of diminishing new vehicle sales, the increased durability of vehicles, and the soaring value of used cars and light trucks,” stated Jim Lang in the most recent Lang Aftermarket iReport, adding, “The record-high average age of domestic nameplate cars has significant consequences for the aftermarket.”

The following are highlights from the study.

The increasing age of domestic nameplate cars
• The average age of domestic nameplate cars on U.S. roads climbed by nearly 2.5 years between 2012 and 2022.

• They averaged 12.9 years at the beginning of 2012 and reached 14.2 years by 2017.

Average age increase to 2022
Over the last five years, domestic nameplate cars had climbed steadily in average age, reaching 14.6 years by 2019 and 14.8 years in 2020. Lang Marketing estimates (on a preliminary basis) that domestic nameplate cars averaged a record-high of more than 15.2 years at the beginning of 2022. Final results will be available in several months.

Domestic cars added nearly 2.5 years to their average age in the past 10 years, pushing their average age to approximately 4.0 years above that of foreign nameplate cars.

Dropping new domestic car sales
The domestic car share of new light vehicle sales has greatly diminished over the past 15 years. From 22 percent of sales in 2006, domestic nameplate cars captured less than 6 percent of the 2021 new vehicle light market in the U.S.

This steady decline in the share and volume of new domestic nameplate car sales has reduced the number of lower-aged domestic cars to offset the growing number of older domestic nameplate cars on U.S. roads. As a result, the average age of domestic nameplate cars continues its upward trend, and Lang Marketing expects that this trend will continue unabated.

Increasing vehicle durability
Vehicles are staying on U.S. roads for an increasing number of years. Cars and light trucks produced over the past 20 years remain in operation an average of four to five more years than vehicles manufactured earlier, reflecting advances in the materials used in vehicle construction and improved manufacturing technology. This increased vehicle durability means that there is headroom for additional domestic car age growth.

Record-high used vehicle prices
The recent surge in used car prices is reinforcing the trend of extended vehicle survival. The increasing value of used vehicles makes it less likely that they will be scrapped due to crashes and other conditions that in years past would have resulted in their final trip to the junkyard.

Three major aftermarket consequences
The increasing age of domestic nameplate cars is impacting the aftermarket in three major ways.

• First, the increasing age of domestic cars presents the aftermarket with a growing parts proliferation concern. As domestic nameplates cars become older, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers must continue to maintain inventories of replacement parts for this aging segment of the vehicle population.

• Second, the owners of aging domestic nameplate cars are becoming more price-sensitive to the cost of replacement parts and services, affecting the mix of product brands used in their repair and the types of DIFM outlets where this work is performed.

• Third, older domestic cars provide inexpensive transportation for consumers, especially younger buyers, who will generally drive them more annual miles than they would otherwise travel.
This is a positive for the aftermarket since older vehicles require more repair per mile than the average car and light truck.

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