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Length of vehicle ownership in U.S. up 23%

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Feb. 21, 2012—The length of vehicle ownership for new and used cars among U.S. consumers has increased 23 percent since the third quarter of 2008, according to an analysis of U.S. vehicle registrations by market intelligence firm Polk.

The average length of ownership for new vehicles has risen to a record 71.4 months—nearly six years—while the average length of ownership for used vehicles is 49.9 months. Combined, new and used vehicle owners are holding on to their vehicles for an average of 57 months, according to Polk.

Polk said the following factors are contributing to the increased length of vehicle ownership:

• Consumer spending remains conservative in a weak job market with relatively high unemployment rates.
• Many buyers have longer term financing options to secure more affordable payments.
• Vehicles produced in recent years have been more durable and more reliable than their predecessors. In addition, several vehicle manufacturers are offering longer warranties for new vehicles, which reduce the risk for consumers who want to keep vehicles longer.

Polk said the trend of increased lengths of vehicle ownership combined with an increased average age of vehicles—which is about 10.8 years for cars and light trucks—offer a promising outlook for the automotive aftermarket.

“As the aftermarket prepares to service this aging vehicle population, this creates concerns about appropriate parts inventory,” said Mark Seng, global aftermarket practice leader for Polk. “As a result of our analysis, we’re currently working with customers in the aftermarket to help them prepare for increasing demand throughout the entire supply chain.”

Visit Polk’s website for additional details on its vehicle ownership analysis.

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