Record-high age reported for domestic cars

By Lang Aftermarket iReport


“At the beginning of 2019, domestic nameplate cars across the U.S. averaged 14.6 years, a record-high age for domestic cars.

“Domestic nameplate car average age has climbed an incredible 2.2 years since 2009. A ten-year history of the average age growth of domestic and foreign nameplate cars and light trucks is provided in the just-released 2020 Lang Aftermarket Annual. Click-throughs to a Table of Contents and Order Form are provided at the top of this iReport.”

– Jim Lang, publisher, Lang Aftermarket iReport


Record High Average Age

Domestic nameplate cars in the U.S. reached an average age of 14.6 years at the beginning of January 2019, marking the 27th consecutive year that domestic car average age has reached a record-high.

The category of domestic nameplate cars does not include Transplants, which are classified (along with Imports) as foreign nameplates by Lang Marketing.

Nearly One-Fifth Older in Age Since 2009

Domestic nameplate car average age in the U.S. soared 2.2 years between 2009 and 2019, an increase of nearly one-fifth that has continued their unprecedented rate of age growth.

2009 to 2019 Average Age Gain

Domestic nameplate cars averaged 12.4 years at the beginning of 2009, climbing to 12.9 years in 2012 and 13.8 years by 2015.

During the next four years, domestic nameplates added 0.8 years in average age, reaching 14.0 years in 2016 and 14.2 years by 2017.

At the beginning of 2018, domestic nameplate cars averaged 14.4 years. They added another 0.2 years in average age over the following 12 months, when they reached a record 14.6 years at the beginning of January 2019 (up more than a full year from 2014).

Much Older Than Other Vehicle Groups

Domestic nameplate cars are much older than their foreign nameplate counterparts, which were one-quarter younger at the beginning of 2019.

The difference in average age between domestic nameplate cars and light trucks is also significant, reaching more than 12% and nearly 30%, respectively, for domestic and foreign nameplate light trucks at the beginning of 2019.

Factors Increasing Age Growth

Two factors are driving domestic car average age higher: their diminishing sales share of the U.S. new vehicle market, and the increasing life span of all light vehicles, including domestic nameplate cars.

The diminishing portion of new domestic nameplate car sales over the past ten years has increased the average age of those remaining in operation.

Regional Average Age Differences

Domestic nameplate cars are higher in average age west of the Mississippi than across eastern regions.

This is caused by two factors: the larger percentage of light trucks (among domestic nameplates) in western regions, and the strength of foreign nameplate cars (Imports and Transplants) on the West Coast, particularly in California.

U.S. Vehicle Makers Abandon Cars

All three domestic nameplate automakers have announced a drastic reduction in the selection and volume of passenger cars that they will manufacture over the next few years.

This will significantly reduce the number and share of new domestic nameplate car sales in the U.S. and increase even further the average age of domestic nameplate cars that remain in operation.

Domestic Car Average Age Projection

Lang Marketing projects the average age of domestic nameplate cars will reach approximately 15.0 years by 2021. This projection is based on the shrinking new-market share of domestic nameplate cars and the extended life of all vehicles (including domestic nameplate cars) that have been produced over the past 20 years.

Domestic nameplate cars will increase more in average age than any other vehicle group on U.S. roads over the next five years, as their new vehicle sales share and VIO share continue to decrease.

Significant differences between the average age of domestic nameplates east of the Mississippi and those in western regions will continue for the foreseeable future.

Six Major Takeaways

  • The average age of domestic nameplate cars in the U.S. was 14.6 years at the beginning of January 2019, the 27th consecutive year of record-setting age levels.
  • Domestic nameplate car average age in the U.S. soared 2.2 years between 2009 and 2019, a one-fifth increase.
  • Domestic nameplate cars were nearly one-quarter older than foreign nameplate cars in the U.S. at the beginning of 2019. The age differences between domestic nameplate cars and domestic and foreign nameplate light trucks are significant, over 12% and nearly 30%, respectively, at the beginning of 2019.
  • Foreign nameplate light trucks are over one-quarter younger in average age than domestic nameplate cars in the U.S.
  • Domestic nameplate car average age is significantly higher west of the Mississippi than it is across eastern regions of the country.
  • Lang Marketing projects the average age of domestic nameplate cars in the U.S. will reach approximately 15.0 years by 2021. Complete analyses of the average age growth of all four major groups of light vehicles on the U.S. roads (domestic and foreign nameplate cars and light trucks) are presented in the just-released 2020 Lang Aftermarket Annual.

Copyright 2019 by Lang Marketing Resources, Inc.

NOTESpecial thanks to publisher Jim Lang for granting us permission to publish the Lang Aftermarket iReport.

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