Auto Service World
News   March 10, 2023   by Adam Malik

The ‘new normal’ for miles driven

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As companies have developed more formal work-from-home policies, we’re settling into expectations around what should be the ‘new normal’ around how people travel, according to an industry observer.

Looking at data from earlier this year, Nathan Shipley, executive director for The NPD Group’s automotive aftermarket practice, saw that more people chose to drive and take road trips over flying due to airline issues, ranging from delays and cancellations to high costs due to high demand. People invested in camping equipment and bought trailers and recreational vehicles. That helped keep miles travelled up.

But how companies implement work-from-home policies will end up being the biggest impact-maker, Shipley said. And barring some future event that keeps people home, it seems we have reached some stability in this area.

According to AIA Canada’s Outlook Study 2022, kilometres travelled in 2021 matched 2019 levels. However, Q1 2022 was below the same period in 2019, leaving the year off the pace to match or even exceed pre-pandemic levels. The study attributed this to high gas prices.

But it’s the commute to work that will have the biggest influence. There was “a lot of noise” in this area, Shipley observed, as some companies at first wanted everyone back five days a week, some of those joined others that asked for three days a week and other companies asked for one day a week, while some said they didn’t care where their workforce was based.

“But the net is that we think we’re in a range where we’re going to be in,” he said at AAPEX in the fall during his Aftermarket Outlook 2023 presentation. “This story as it ties with miles driven, we’re not going to see much of a change as we look ahead in the near future.”

As was seen with the rise of the Omicron variant, work-from-home numbers jumped when companies reacted to the increase in cases. It’s in instances like this where the aftermarket can expect people to not drive as much.

Still, “the takeaway on this one is not much of an expectation of an increase to miles driven,” Shipley said.


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