There’s some good news and not-so-good news lately that affects the automotive aftermarket.
First, the not-so-good. Miles driven are down. Again. Northcoast Research, a Cleveland-based firm that tracks miles driven and presents data about six weeks ahead of the government, isn’t convinced that miles driven will reverse the decline it’s been experiencing. For November 2011, Northcoast notes that miles driven were down 3 percent from November 2010. October was down 3.5 percent; September was down 1.2 percent. Why’s this important? Of course, because the more miles driven, the more wear and tear on vehicles, the more they need to be fixed and the more parts get bought and installed.
Factors affecting miles driven include unemployment (fewer commuters means fewer miles) and elevated food and gasoline prices, among other things. Many motorists have been in the mindset the past few years that they must consolidate shopping trips, for example, to save money on fuel. To put further strain on miles driven, enter the Iranian government. The military has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a fifth of the world’s oil supply is transported. The Strait of Hormuz lies at the southern end of the Persian Gulf. If the Iranians are successful at choking off the supply of oil there, a number of analysts believe a gallon of gas could average $5. No mystery what that would do to miles driven.
The good news? All those vehicles on the road are getting older! The average age of vehicles has reached a record high, according to Polk. The average age of cars and light trucks on the roads today is 10.8 years, Polk says. That’s good, because the older vehicles get, the more things start falling apart. Cars are, on average, 11.1 years old. Light trucks, which includes pickups and SUVs, are on average 10.4 years.
YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY CONTESTS
You may have noticed a new contest in the January issue of Counterman. We already run the very popular Guess the Car program, where readers have to decipher a funny little picture and figure out what make or model it represents.
The new contest, called Quest for Cash, gives readers a chance to win up to $350 a month in prizes. All you have to do is read the magazine. An online quiz asks you questions about stuff you saw in the magazine. Three, randomly chosen correct entrants will win $200, $100 and $50 respectively. Go to www.counterman.com/questforcash and give it a try.
One of the best parts of my job every month is emailing people to tell them they’ve won money. How often do you get good news by email anymore, right? And with the prospect of higher gas prices, that money will come in handy.