DETROIT (March 6, 2003) — Improved technology and vehicle quality has meant that, for the first time since the mid-1990s, Americans are keeping older cars and trucks on the road for longer periods.
That's the assessment of Detroit-based automotive research firm R.L. Polk & Co. It found that last year the median age of passenger cars rose to 8.4 years, and 6.6 years for light trucks. In 2001, the median age was 8.1 years and 6.1 years, respectively.
At the same time, Polk said, vehicle scrappage rates have decreased. In 2002, 5.6 percent of passenger cars were scrapped, compared to 6.4 percent in 2001 and 9.5 percent in 1970. Trucks went from 7.5 percent in 2001 to 7.0 percent in 2002, though it is higher than the 5.0 percent rate of 1970.
Polk said the median age of light trucks remains lower than for passenger cars because of the recent boom in new truck registrations in the last few years.
“Advances in vehicle quality and engine technology have allowed American car owners to keep their vehicles on the road longer,” said Eric Papacek, an analytic consultant at Polk. Still, he said the issue is a “double-edged sword” for auto makers because the increased quality can keep consumers out of the new-car market for longer periods of time.