The Automotive Crash

Americans en masse are deciding their current cars aren’t in immediate need of being replaced after all, judging by a new J.D. Power and Associates report on the automotive market. The research firm now predicts that new-vehicle retail sales will total some 10.8 million this year — 2 million fewer than last year. About two-thirds of the decline in sales “can be attributed to consumers delaying vehicle purchases,” says the report. “On average, consumers are keeping their vehicles four months longer in 2008 compared with 2007 — up from 67 months to 71 months.” That’s the thanks automakers get for building more-durable cars.

Americans aren’t the only ones cutting back on vehicle purchases. The report says light-vehicle sales in Europe will total 21.3 million this year, down 3.1 percent from last year. Light-vehicle sales in China this year are expected to exceed last year’s by 9.7 percent, totaling 8.9 million units. But that compares with a far brisker growth rate of 24.1 percent in 2007.