Source: Ward's Automotive Group.
Vehicle Sales, United States, 1931-2013
From the 1930s up to 2000 car sales in the United States have steadily grown, with fluctuations closely related to economic cycles of expansion and recession (figures between 1942 and 1951 are not available because of the disruptions brought by the Second World War). The United States has become a mature and saturated market concerning car sales since most of the adult population has a car or has a ready access to a car. Most of the sales are thus replacement sales. Another trend has been the growing share of trucks such as sports utility vehicles in total sales, accounting for about 50% of all sales since 2000. Sales are showing an erosion for a variety of reasons:
  • Consumers tend to use and keep their vehicles for a longer period of time. While as early as 2001, consumers where keeping their car on average for 34 months, this figure surged to 60 months in 2009.
  • The mechanical reliability and durability of vehicles has improved, which is reflected in the median age of cars, which has doubled between 1970 (about 5 years) and 2013 (about 11 years).
  • Since 2007, economic difficulties and the unfolding recession had a strong negative impacts on vehicle sales, which have plummeted. This was associated with the bankruptcy or near bankruptcy of major car manufacturers (e.g. GM) and their suppliers. The average American consumer has seen little, if any change in income.
  • The younger generations are less prone to use the automobile and rely more on public transit.