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The average age of U.S. light vehicles has increased for the fifth consecutive year, finds an S&P Global Mobility report.

S&P research shows the average vehicle age rose to 12.2 years in 2022, representing a 2% increase from 2021.

S&P Global reported the increase is driven by the global microchip shortage and supply chain issues, which caused a "constrained supply of new cars and light trucks, amid a strong demand for personal transportation."

In an Automotive News interview, Todd Campau, automotive aftermarket practice lead for S&P Global, said owners are keeping their vehicles longer or purchasing used vehicles because of the shortage of new vehicles.

"People do value their vehicles; people do still feel the need to have a vehicle available to them, maybe even more coming out of the pandemic, so that's caused the vehicle fleet just to grow a little bit," Campau said. "And because the new-vehicle sales haven't been available, it's been growing from within really from vehicles that have been on the road, and they're just staying available longer."

Though this is true, S&P research shows the average vehicle age has increased every year since 2011, highlighting a trend toward older and higher-mileage vehicles. Cox Automotive data finds the sale of high-mileage vehicles grew 7% in the first quarter of 2022.  

The total U.S. vehicle fleet — which includes all light cars and trucks — increased by 3.5 million vehicles to 283 million in 2022, according to S&P Global.

The research cites a continued decline in vehicle scrappage and greater demand for used vehicles for contributing to increased vehicle age. Vehicle miles have pre-pandemic levels, according to the study, "increasing by more than 10% in 2021 as lockdowns eased and people returned to work and leisure travel."  

Electric vehicles saw a decrease in their average life from 2021. S&P Global reports the total number of battery-electric vehicles in operation increased nearly 40% to 1.44 million in 2022. But the average age decreased from 3.9 years in 2021 to 3.8 years in 2022.

S&P Global also predicted supply chain issues and microchip shortages will continue to increase the average age of light vehicles through 2023.

"There's definitely going to be upward pressure on average age through probably 2024, maybe even '25," Campau told Automotive News. He predicted average age will level off once new vehicle supply starts to catch up with demand and hinted average age may fall once pent-up demand for new vehicles is released.

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