Despite 'clunkers' program, U.S. fleet aging

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Chicago Tribune (IL) - Friday, February 12, 2010
Author: Christopher Jensen, SPECIAL TO THE TRIBUNE

Almost 700,000 new vehicles were purchased under the "cash for clunkers" program, and while it helped some dealers and automakers, it hardly made a dent in the average age of America's cars and trucks: 9.8 years.

But then it is not easy to affect a fleet of 240 million vehicles on America's roads.

That fleet, which includes cars from the 1967 to 2010 model years, has been getting steadily older, said Marty Miller, senior product marketing manager for Experian Automotive.

Reasons for that range from dramatically fewer new vehicles being sold in the past few years to cars being more reliable and lasting longer, Miller said.

Illinois has a slightly younger fleet than the national average. It is 9.1 years, which also beats the Midwest's average of 10 years.

"That's probably not too surprising for Illinois, especially since Chicago encompasses a great chunk of the vehicles, and there is a large bit of money in the Chicago area," Miller said.

Nationally, the fleet is about evenly split between cars and trucks, according to Experian's analysis. Full-size pickups are the largest group, about 14.5 percent, followed by midsize cars, at about 12.5 percent. Only 0.65 percent of registered vehicles are hybrids.

General Motors has about 29 percent of the national fleet, followed by Ford with 21 percent, Chrysler with 13 percent, Toyota with 11 percent, Honda with almost 8 percent, Nissan with 5 percent and Hyundai with almost 3 percent.

In the "cash for clunkers" program, which provided vouchers for $3,500 to $4,500, Ford was the brand most likely to be junked (29 percent), followed by Chevrolet (17 percent), Dodge (11 percent) and Jeep (9 percent), said Jeffrey Anderson, director of consulting and analytics at Experian Automotive.

Only 2.6 percent of the vehicles junked were Toyotas, and only one-half percent were Hondas, he said. But 18 percent of the new vehicles purchased were Toyotas and 13 percent were Hondas. Ford and Chevrolet each got 13 percent.

"Toyota and Honda were clear beneficiaries of this program," Anderson said.

But he said the requirement that the vehicle purchased be more fuel-efficient than the one scrapped may have played better to Honda and Toyota.

Here's what Experian found participants junked -- and the most popular replacements:

* Of those who junked a Chevrolet, 26 percent bought another Chevy, 14 percent bought a Toyota, 10 percent bought a Honda and 10 percent bought a Ford.

* Of those who junked a Ford, 24 percent bought another Ford, 16 percent bought a Toyota, 11 percent bought a Honda and 10 percent bought a Chevy.

* Of those who junked a Dodge, 17 percent bought a Toyota, 12 percent bought a Honda, 12 percent bought a Chevrolet, 11 percent bought a Ford and 9 percent bought a Dodge.

* Of those who junked a Chrysler, 20 percent bought a Toyota, 17 percent bought a Honda, 10 percent bought a Hyundai and 9 percent bought a Nissan. Only 3 percent bought a Chrysler.

* Of those who junked a Honda, 29 percent bought a Honda, 23 percent bought a Toyota, 11 percent bought a Nissan and 6 percent bought a Hyundai.

* Of those who junked a Toyota, 41 percent bought another Toyota, 18 percent bought a Honda and 8 percent bought a Nissan