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234 million cars, trucks on roads by 2008: Polk

November 23, 2010
The number of light vehicles in operation (VIO) on U.S. roads could grow by 16 million vehicles over the next five years, to 234 million units total, according to a forecast this month by R.L. Polk & Co. Passenger car VIO would decline slightly by the July 1, 2008, forecast date, as older cars are scrapped and replaced with new light trucks such as minivans, pickups and SUVs. In the Polk study, a vehicle in operation is defined as previously registered vehicles plus new vehicle registrations each year, less any vehicles that are scrapped annually. "Understanding the past and current VIO snapshots is important for the auto industry, but to understand what will happen in the future has become increasingly important," said Marty Miller, product manager with Polk's product strategy team. "During the next five years, we expect light truck VIO to grow by over 13 percent and passenger car VIO to fall by nearly 9 percent. This development will certainly have implications for automotive part product life cycles and the aftermarket." In 2003, passenger cars comprised 60 percent of vehicles in operation; light trucks, 40 percent. Polk projects that by 2008, the percentage of cars will drop to 54.7 percent while light trucks increase to 45.3 percent. "There are several other dynamics at play here," said Polk analytic consultant and model builder Dave Goebel. "Light truck sales have recently outnumbered passenger car sales. "We also know from our research that light trucks last longer than cars, and that more recently produced model years out last older model years. Our modeling techniques are based on these known differences in durability across vehicle segments and model years."