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Fewer Americans Are Buying New Cars. That's a Problem for the Climate
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Fewer Americans Are Buying New Cars. That’s a Problem for the Climate

There is a growing population of seniors across the U.S. They’re 284 million strong Their numbers are growing each day, and their numbers are staggering: 12.5 years on average. This may not seem like much for us However, this group of seniors isn’t made of cars, but people. There has never been a time when the American vehicle fleet has ever been as old, and that’s negative news for the long-desired phase-out of fossil fuel vehicles and the planet as a whole.

The latest news about old cars is based on an unveiled study from S&P Global Mobility, an independent research and policy organization that monitors regularly the health of the U.S. car fleet. They have noticed some alarming trends of late.

For six years sequence, vehicles on American roads have been getting older the largest increase occurred over the past three years, due to the COVID-19 epidemic. The supply chain problems caused by the epidemic and associated lockdowns have led to the world’s largest lack of computers on which new cars are dependent, which is reducing automobile production and driving up costs for vehicles.

The price of an automobile currently is $488,000. Interest rate increases to fight inflation have brought the average interest rate on loans for new cars to above 6 percent. All of this has resulted in those who are normally eager to trade in their older automobiles more likely to hang on to them for longer.

The retail sales of new vehicles fell by 8.8% to 14.6 million cars in 2021, to 13.9 million by 2022. That’s the lowest number of new vehicle sales in more than a decade. “Multiple factors have driven vehicle costs higher while the cost of eggs and groceries and gasoline and everything else has gone up too,” says Todd Campeau, associate director of aftermarket solutions at S&P Global Mobility.

“So the disposable income for households is already constrained and for many people, the thought of taking on a new car loan is something they’re reluctant to do.” This impacts the climate in many ways. One reason is that according to Campeau that cars made 12.5 decades ago are more polluting than those which have seen technological advancements that have been incorporated into the latest gas-powered cars. Additionally, even an older car that was fuel-efficient in its beginning will be less efficient as it gets older.

“A car gets worse over time,” says Campeau. “It gets less efficient. Similar to humans age the body doesn’t function at a high level when we reach an age.” In the case of electric cars, the issue of age is shifting in the other direction.

At present, there are less than two million EVs that are on the road throughout the U.S., representing less than one percent of the total fleet. And they’re getting older and not getting older. A typical age range for EV is currently 3.6 years according to S&P and is which is down from 3.7 in 2022.

This is because owners who have cash to spend are negotiating up prices and buyers who aren’t wealthy are unable to enter the market because of the high rates of interest and the cost of EVs which currently cost about $59,000.

What does this mean in terms of replacing the over quarter-billion gasoline-powered vehicles on the roads with pure electric vehicles The outlook isn’t positive. As people hold on to their vehicles longer and the price of electric vehicles continues to rise, Campeau does not see the switch to electric shortly.

Even if every car that was sold in the future were electric, it’d take 10 years to replace half the fleet of gas-powered vehicles. Since each vehicle sold probably won’t come with electric power, Campeau doesn’t see EVs overtaking combustion vehicles for a long time.

“I would put it in the 2040s,” he declares. “Maybe even 2050.” American motorists could be looking forward to a green electric future, but that future is a long way from now.

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