Despite Vehicle Advances, AAA Finds Breakdowns at Record High

BY Courtney Huckabay
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Despite advances in vehicle technology, including maintenance reminders and other dashboard alerts designed to mitigate roadside trouble, AAA rescued a record-​breaking 32 million drivers in 2015, with more battery, flat tire and key problems than ever before, a new study shows.

Vehicles fewer than five years old in particular experienced a higher proportion of tire and key-​related issues than older vehicles, suggesting that the trend toward eliminating the spare tire and moving to electronic keyless ignitions may have unintended consequences.

The new AudienceSCAN study found 24.8% of U.S. adults are members of automobile service clubs (AAA, OnStar, etc.), so this leaves ample opportunity to remind 75% of America that they need roadside assistance options.

Vehicles today are advanced more than ever, yet are still vulnerable to breakdowns,” said Cliff Ruud, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Solutions. “Sleek, low profile tires are highly susceptible to damage, electronic keyless ignitions can zap battery life and despite advanced warning systems, more than half a million drivers ran out of gas.”

Even brand-​new cars run out of gas! Clubs can remind drivers of that emergency scenario. Using Toyotas and Fords in ads will resonate with 35% of the Auto Service Club Members driving those brands, according to the latest data from the AudienceSCAN survey.

Owners of new vehicles may be unaware that some new vehicle designs and features may leave them vulnerable at the roadside. To reduce vehicle weight and boost fuel economy, spare tires are being eliminated from new vehicles at alarming rates, and are being replaced with tire inflator kits that can only remedy some flat tire situations. Additionally, new keyless ignition systems can drain the battery life when keys are stored too close to the vehicle and can lock a driver out of the vehicle while the engine is still running. Finally, despite nearly all new vehicles being equipped with low fuel warning alerts and range estimations, a higher proportion of drivers are using these systems to push the limits between fuel ups.

Service Club Members who have new cars might be tempted to forego their memberships because they don't expect any car issues. Remind Auto Service Club Members that they might not have spare tires in their brand-​new trunks! The latest AudienceSCAN study showed 63% of members took action after watching television (over-​the-​air, online, mobile or tablet) commercials in the past year.

Other key findings from an analysis of AAA’s roadside assistance data include:

  • Battery failures, flat tires and keys locked inside the vehicle remain the top roadside assistance requests.
  • Vehicles fewer than five years old have a higher proportion of tire, key and fuel-​related issues than older vehicles. Due in part to complex, electronic vehicle designs, one-​in-​five service calls for a newer vehicle required a tow to a repair facility.
  • Vehicles between 6 and 10 years old have the highest proportion of battery-​related issues, as most batteries have a three- to five-​year life.
  • Roadside assistance calls peak in the summer (8.3 million) followed by winter (8.1 million), fall (7.8 million) and spring (7.7 million).
  • Drivers are most likely to request roadside assistance on Mondays and least likely to request assistance on Sundays.
  • Drivers in the West experienced the most breakdowns, followed by the South, the Northeast and the Midwest.
  • Despite advances in key technology, AAA came to the rescue of more than four million drivers locked out of their vehicles.

Drivers today have increasingly-​connected lifestyles, and want reliable, flexible service options when trouble strikes,” continued Ruud. “AAA has responded with flexible roadside assistance offerings nationwide including app-​based service requests and the ability to track assigned service vehicles in real time on a smartphone.”

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.