Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Longer Car Service Life Isn’t Frugality

The story about lower car sales is that it is the result of a financial squeeze on consumers. People have to run their cars longer because they can’t afford to buy a new car right now. If that were the case, though, we should be seeing higher revenue at auto parts dealers as people push cars farther into their useful lives. I went looking for that this morning, and I couldn’t find much sign of it. Auto parts sales are up, but only slightly.

What this means is that people are driving cars farther mainly because cars are better made than in the past. The improvements in engineering are making cars more expensive, but also making them more reliable, so that they can run longer.

Put this together with the reduction in vehicle miles as fuel prices increase, and it points to a pace of vehicle sales that could be much lower than current levels.