Lang Aftermarket iReport: Vehicle surge on U.S. roads


“Despite a modest downturn in 2019 new car and light truck sales through the first half of the year (less than 2%), the number of light vehicles in operation (VIO) is surging after no growth for six years following the Great Recession of 2008.”

“Car and light truck VIO in the U.S. fell from 2007 to 2013, an unprecedented development that had occurred only once previously: in the four years during World War II when consumer vehicle production in the U.S. was shut down for the war effort. Starting with the upturn in 2014 new vehicle sales, the light vehicle VIO is undergoing a historic surge.”

— Jim Lang, publisher, Lang Aftermarket iReport


Key VIO Growth Periods

Three recent periods have recorded significantly different annual growth rates of vehicles in operation (VIO): 2000 to 2007, 2007 to 2013, and 2013 to 2020.

Each of these periods reflects a different annual rate of VIO growth and a changing mix of nameplates and vehicle age groups.

2000 to 2007: Steady VIO Growth

There were just under 225 million cars and light trucks in the U.S. at mid-year 2000. Over the next six years, the VIO steadily increased so that by mid-year 2007, the car and light truck population across the U.S. totaled approximately 250 million.

The 25 million gain in the light vehicle population over seven years represented 1.5% annual growth.

2007 to 2013: Great Recession Impact

The next six years saw a historic change in new car and light truck sales across the U.S.

New vehicle sales plunged, as a result of the 2008 Great Recession, and the number of cars and light trucks on U.S. roads fell for the first time since World War II (over 75 years earlier).

2013 to 2020: Dramatic VIO Recovery

After bottoming at just over 10.3 million in 2009 sales, the new car and light truck market began to rebound. By 2013 annual new volume reached 15.3 million, followed by the sale of over 16 million new cars and light trucks in 2014.

New vehicle annual volume in the U.S. averaged more than 17 million during the next four years (2015 through 2018), the strongest four-year span of new vehicle sales in U.S. history.

While 2019 annual sales will be down slightly from last year (off 1.7% through the first six months), Lang Marketing projects that the average annual sales of cars and light trucks from 2015 through 2019 will top 17 million, representing an unprecedented five-year run of new vehicle volume.

Over 293 Million VIO by 2020

Lang Marketing estimates that the VIO in the U.S. will surpass 293 million by mid-year 2020.

This 2.4% average annual gain between 2013 and 2020 will mark a dramatic turnaround from the previous six years, and an increase of nearly 45 million cars and light trucks.

The rapid rise in VIO between 2013 and 2020 will add substantial fuel to aftermarket product growth.

Changing Vehicle Mix

Not only have the number of cars and light trucks surged, there have been significant changes in the share of foreign versus domestic nameplates and the age mix of cars and light trucks on U.S. roads.

Foreign nameplates will surge from less than 41% in 2913 to approximately half of all cars and light trucks in the U.S. in 2020. At the same time, the number of vehicles 12 years and older will increase significantly. Both of these factors will have just as much (or more) impact on the size and nature of the aftermarket as will the surging population of light vehicles on U.S. roads.

Six Major Takeaways

  • Car and light truck VIO growth can be divided into three periods spanning 20 years: 2000 to 2007, 2007 to 2013, and 2013 to 2020.
  • From 2000 to 2007, the light vehicle VIO increased 25 million, climbing at a 1.5% annual rate.
  • Over the next six years (2007 to 2013), the new car and light truck market crashed and the light vehicle VIO failed to increase.
  • Record-setting new vehicle sales between 2015 and 2019 will help to boost total light vehicle VIO to more than 293 million by mid-year 2020.
  • The 2.4% average annual increase in the light vehicle population projected by Lang Marketing from 2013 to 2020 will mark a dramatic turnaround from the previous six years and will be a strong force driving aftermarket product growth.
  • These three time periods reflect differing rates of vehicle growth (and decline) as well as changes in the percent of foreign versus domestic nameplates and age mix of cars and light trucks on U.S. roads.

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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