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Median Age Of Cars Now 8.6 Years - Fewer U.S. Vehicles are Being Scrapped, Polk Reports

* Percentage of U.S. vehicles scrapped at 5.5%, lowest since 1993 * Car scrappage rate of 5.2%, lowest since 1948 * Median car age of 8.6 years, record levels two years running

SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Feb. 9 -- Vehicle scrappage rates declined 9.1 percent in 2003, according to R. L. Polk & Co. The number of passenger cars scrapped in 2003 was down 6.1 percent while light trucks experienced a 12.7 percent decrease. Both numbers were factors in driving the scrappage rate down for all vehicles, a trend since 1970 (Table A).

"Cars and light trucks are becoming more durable," said Mike Gingell, vice president of Polk's aftermarket team. "Although the scrappage rate for all trucks increased, the scrappage rate for light trucks stands at 6.0 percent, which is the lowest scrappage rate since Polk's light truck report was introduced in 2000. While we saw a significant increase in scrappage rates for the heavier trucks, the overall percentage was driven down by cars and light trucks."

The median age of U.S. Vehicles increased slightly in 2003 (Table B). The median car age of 8.6 years in 2003 is 2.4 percent above the previous record high in 2002. For all trucks, the median age in 2003 was 6.7 years and for light trucks, 6.5 years. Both light trucks and all trucks observed a median age decrease of 1.5 percent in 2003.

According to Dave Goebel, an analytic consultant with Polk, the explanation behind the older median car age is twofold. "For two years in a row we have had the lowest scrappage rate in cars since 1948. Additionally, passenger cars are now less than half of new light vehicle sales and new car registrations are down notably from their peak in 2000," Goebel said.

"The slight decrease in median age for trucks is being driven by sustained high levels of new light truck registrations, on average 8.6 million over the last four years," Goebel said.

  TABLE A
                  VEHICLE SCRAPPAGE RATES
  Year        Cars        Trucks*        All Vehicles
  1970        9.5%         5.0%              8.7%
  1980        8.1%         5.1%              7.4%
  1990        7.2%         4.1%              6.3%
  1995        6.1%         4.4%              5.5%
  2000        6.4%         7.5%              6.8%
  2001        6.0%         7.6%              6.6%
  2002        5.6%         7.0%              6.1%
  2003        5.2%         7.7%              5.5%
      Source: R. L. Polk & Co.

      TABLE B

                    MEDIAN AGE OF U.S. VEHICLES
  Year        Cars        Light Trucks*        All Trucks**
  1994         7.5            7.2                 7.5
  1995         7.7            7.4                 7.6
  1996         7.9            7.5                 7.7
  1997         8.1            7.3                 7.8
  1998         8.3            7.1                 7.6
  1999         8.3            6.9                 7.2
  2000         8.3            6.7                 6.9
  2001         8.3            6.1                 6.8
  2002         8.4            6.6                 6.8
  2003         8.6            6.5                 6.7
      Source: R. L. Polk & Co.