Will 2015 Miles Driven Be a Near Record?

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In a recent report, Lang Marketing showed annual driving by all types of vehicles climbed 30 percent between 1988 and 1998, soaring from 2.0 trillion miles in 1988 to 2.6 trillion miles in 1998. This annual mileage increase was followed by an additional 400 billion mile gain in annual driving between 1998 and 2007. Yearly driving levels increased just over 1.0 trillion miles between 1998 and 2007, averaging a 2.1 percent annual growth during this 20-year period.

Mileage on U.S. roads peaked at 3.031 trillion miles during 2007. Despite steady mileage growth spanning 20 years, the 2007 peak was followed by three mileage declines over the next six years: 2008, 2009 and 2011. Even with modest driving increases in 2012 and 2013, mileage declined at an average annual 0.3-percent pace from 2007 through 2013. As a result, 2013 driving on U.S. roads by all types of vehicles fell 41 billion miles below 2007.

“Despite three consecutive years of driving growth, annual mileage in the U.S. by all types of vehicles peaked at 3.031 trillion miles seven years ago in 2007,” said Jim Lang, president of Lang Marketing. “It will be challenging for 2015 driving to top 2007 mileage, despite nearly a 3 percent increase in vehicles on the road over these eight years.”

While official mileage data are currently available only through September 2014, Lang Marketing projects 2014 mileage by all types of vehicles will rise approximately 0.8 percent, a modest gain, which will fail to push total 2014 mileage past the 3.0 trillion mile mark.

Car and light-truck population in the U.S. will likely increase less than 2 percent during 2015, a vehicle growth rate, which by itself will not create a strong mileage growth for the year.

Based on likely 2015 economic conditions, Lang Marketing said it does not foresee a significant employment increase. With approximately 60 percent of car and light-truck driving related to employment, 2015 mileage growth based on robust employment expansion does not seem likely.

On the other hand, 2015 gas prices at the pump in the U.S. are likely to decline, continuing a 2014 trend prompted by soaring U.S. energy production and a weakening Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Lang Marketing reported.

Bolstered by lower pump prices, 2015 mileage growth will be stronger than any percentage gain recorded since 2004, but most likely will fall short of the 1.2 percent increase needed to eclipse the 3.031 trillion mileage peak recorded in 2007.

Without a significant increase in 2015 mileage, aftermarket car and light truck product growth will depend on increased product use per-mile driven, the same dynamic that has generated car and light-truck product growth across the U.S. aftermarket for more than seven years.


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