Despite Uptick in New Car Sales, Consumers Still Keeping Their Cars Longer

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Despite an increase in new car sales, the post-recession trend of consumers keeping their cars longer continues, a trend that bodes well for the automotive aftermarket and repair industry, according to The NPD Group.  NPD’s car care research finds that among consumers purchasing automotive products or repair services 59% report their purchase was for a car eight years or older and 19% purchased for a car 15 years and older.

According to NPD’s "Car Care Track," which monitors purchase behavior details of the “do-it-yourself” and “do-it-for-me” auto aftermarket and repair consumer, this is a significant increase over the pre-recession distribution of vehicles by age.  In 2007, before the economic downturn, only 51% of consumers reported having a car eight or more years old. NPD finds that the biggest gap over that time has been among consumers with cars 15 years and older, which now make up 19% of the market compared with only 14% in 2007.

Conventional wisdom in years past was that these oldest of vehicles were on the waning end of consumer willingness to invest in repairs,” says David Portalatin, NPD auto aftermarket industry analyst.  “That notion is changing as more consumers today are opting to keep their 15 plus year old car on the road.”

The effect of this shift in vehicle age is a continuation of rising sales on application parts categories.  In 2011, application parts led all categories in the auto parts channel in unit volume growth increasing 1.6% over year ago and generating a 5% gain in dollar volume, according to NPD. Unit sales of Suspension, Steering, and Application Electrical parts all saw gains of 6% or more.

The reality is that while new car sales increased in 2011, they remained well below pre-recession sales rates and as a result, aging vehicles still gained influence in the market. Even more robust new car sales would not displace the aging vehicle predominance in a single year,” says Portalatin. “In response to our 2012 Aftermarket Outlook Survey, consumers reported that they expect to keep their current vehicle another 5 years on average, which would mean that the demand for the parts consumers need to keep older cars going strong will maintain momentum in 2012.”

[Source:  "Car Care Track."  The NPD Group.  18 Apr. 2012.  Web.  19 Apr. 2012.]