Light vehicles hit record average age: 11.4 years

The U.S. vehicle fleet population is changing, a shift that gives way to significant opportunities for certain automotive aftermarket segments according to Polk, the global automotive market intelligence firm recently acquired by IHS.

As part of its analysis, Polk reports the average age of all light vehicles on the road now stands at a record high of 11.4 years, based on review of over 247-million U.S. car and light truck registrations earlier this year. The average age was 11.2 years in 2012, according to Polk figures. For passenger cars, average age also met a record high at 11.4 years, while the average age of light trucks also increased to a record 11.3 years. Polk expects this trend to continue, while a shift in the fleet of vehicles in operation (VIO) is underway.

As part of its most recent analysis and the growth of vehicle registrations in the past few years, Polk found that the volume of 6- to 11-year-old vehicles is declining, while the group of vehicles older than 12 years is on the rise. This trend supports the increase in average age and creates a potential strategic shift in the aftermarket as business owners consider options for growth and opportunity.

"These are interesting times for the automotive aftermarket," said Mark Seng, vice president of Polk’s aftermarket practice. "Customers from independent and chain repair shops should be paying close attention to their business plans and making concerted efforts to retain business among the do-it-for-me (DIFM) audience, while retailers have a unique and growing opportunity with potential consumers wrenching on their own vehicles."

Polk recently developed a new forecast for vehicles in operation (VIO) through 2018, the first of its kind in the industry. With the rebound in new vehicle registrations, Polk is forecasting the total VIO to grow 5 percent to more than 260 million vehicles by 2018.

During the past five years, with the significant decline in new vehicle registrations, the market has seen both segments of the aftermarket enjoy strong growth potential. During that time period, the 6-to 11-year-old segment grew marginally and vehicles more than 12 years old increased by more than 20 percent. However, Polk expects the 6-to 11-year-old vehicle segment to shrink by more than 20 percent and the 12+ year old segment to grow at a rate almost half of the prior five-year period.

Armed with this new data and unique analysis, Polk is helping aftermarket providers better understand market conditions, identify growth opportunities and target business plans for the future, recognizing the changing fleet mix will provide new opportunities for all segments of the aftermarket, including components suppliers, retailers, dealers and independent repair shops.