Aging Of America, Vehicular Division

Automakers have another problem these days: Their vehicles are too durable. A report by R.L. Polk & Co., which tracks the auto industry, finds the median age of Americans’ cars creeping steadily upward (see chart below). While probably good news for people who own cars, it’s a very mixed blessing for those who manufacture them. Just 4.5 percent of the nation’s motor-vehicle fleet was scrapped last year, the lowest “scrappage rate” (as it’s know in the trade) since 1949. A surge of SUV sales in the late 1990s and early 2000s has kept the light-truck fleet somewhat younger than America’s cars. With sales of SUVs now hurt by high gas prices, however, we can expect that segment of the market to age as well. To the extent there’s still any stigma attached to driving a decade-old vehicle, it’s fading year by year.