Auto Service World
News   February 20, 2024   by Adam Malik

Why average age will keep going up

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While the automotive aftermarket will see a growing number of older vehicles in need of servicing, the overall lifespan of vehicles hasn’t been significantly altered following the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, one expert suggested.

Furthermore, noted Todd Campau, aftermarket practice leader at S&P Global Mobility, the automotive industry is observing a return to pre-pandemic levels in terms of annual kilometres travelled by vehicles.

While not wanting to label current driving trends as either a new normal or a return to normal, Campau highlighted that annual mileage has largely returned to expected levels.

“From an annual mileage perspective, that’s returned to pretty much what we would expect and call normal going forward,” he said during the webinar, Insights on Vehicle Miles (Kilometres) Travelled in Canada, hosted by S&P Global Mobility.

The more noticeable impact of the pandemic is evident in the estimated odometer readings over a vehicle’s lifetime. The two years of multiple lockdowns and increased remote and hybrid work essentially acted as a pause button, particularly for those who used their vehicles mainly for commuting.

“If a vehicle was expected to last, let’s say, 300,000 km before the pandemic, it’s still likely to last 300,000 km after the pandemic,” Campau explained, adding that during the height of the pandemic, vehicles typically used for commuting saw a dramatic reduction in usage, accumulating far fewer kilometres than in typical years.

This decrease in usage is expected to extend the average age of vehicles. Rather than driving the expected 20,000 km per year, some may have driven 5,000 km. Maybe even less.

“Because the kilometres travelled paused for essentially a year or two, we could see another year or two on the average age of the vehicle,” Camapu said.

This extension of vehicle lifespan is primarily due to lower odometer readings, as vehicles did not accumulate as many kilometres during 2020 and 2021.

However, Campau noted that it’s important to note that this trend is not uniform across all drivers. Essential workers, such as nurses and doctors, continued to drive their vehicles as much as, if not more than, before the pandemic. Consequently, not all vehicles will show the same reduction in odometer readings.

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