Tuesday, 29 June 2010 17:04

April Miles Up, Brightening Annual Driving Prospects

"April driving on U.S. roads by all types of vehicles rose 1.2%, the second monthly increase, following March's 2.3% gain. This reduces the year-to-date mileage deficit to only 0.2%, much less than the 1.1% drop in miles through the first four months last year."

"At this point, it appears annual 2010 miles will post an increase, probably stronger than the 0.28% twelve-month gain for 2009. Nevertheless, 2010 mileage will be lower in the U.S. than 2004 levels."

Higher 2010 Mileage, With Some Reservations

Following two down months, 2010 mileage rebounded strongly in March and April, with 2.3% and 1.2% monthly gains, respectively. This reduced the 2010 year-to-date deficit (which stood at 2.3% through February) to only 0.2% for the first four months.

At this pace, 2010 annual mileage by all types of vehicles will likely top the minuscule 0.23% annual growth recorded last year.

2010 Lower Driving Levels Than 2004

Despite the 2009 annual driving gain, and the likelihood that 2010 mileage will also be positive, 2010 annual driving will be lower than driving by all types of vehicles on U.S. roads during 2004, despite 9% growth in cars and light trucks in the U.S. over these six years.

This is a result of the massive 3.4% drop in U.S. 2008 mileage. It will take several years before this deficit is reversed and even longer until mileage moves beyond the high-point in annual U.S. driving, reached in 2007 (3.03 trillion miles).

Lower Annual Driving per Vehicle

While annual driving by all types of vehicles is important, the most significant factor to aftermarket product use is annual mileage by the average car and light truck in the U.S.

While annual miles by the average car and light truck in the U.S. is likely to modestly increase during 2010 compared to 2009 (the result of higher annual mileage by all vehicles and a reduction in the total number of cars and light trucks during the year) 2010 mileage numbers for the average light vehicle will still remain substantially lower than ten years ago.

Average Vehicle Will Travel 7% Less in 2010 versus 2000

While Lang Marketing projects the average car and light truck in the U.S. will be driven approximately 10.9 thousand miles during 2010 (an increase over 2009), this is more than 800 fewer miles per-vehicle than ten years ago.

During 2000, the average car and light truck in the U.S. was driven 11.7 thousand miles. Average annual miles for the typical light vehicle in the U.S. climbed to 11.8 thousand miles during 2002, before peaking at 12.0 thousand miles in 2005. From this high-point, average annual mileage for the typical car and light truck in the U.S. sank nearly 10% by 2009.

More Miles on Older Vehicles

The rapidly aging vehicle population in the U.S. means that more miles are being driven by older cars and light trucks.

This counterbalances the reduction in average driving by the typical car and light truck in terms of aftermarket product use per-vehicle, since more aftermarket product consumption results per-mile on older light vehicles than on newer models.

Foreign Vehicles Mileage Grows

Vehicles five years and under average significantly higher annual mileage than older cars and light trucks.

With foreign vehicles (imports and transplants) soaring to record-high new vehicle share (55% projected by Lang Marketing for 2010), foreign cars and light trucks are expanding their share of total of annual miles by light vehicles.

This mileage shift, in addition to the growth of total foreign vehicle registration numbers in the U.S., will fuel growth of the foreign car and light truck aftermarket for the foreseeable future.