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Americans plan to keep their cars longer, AutoPacific study finds

Tue, 14 Jul 2009

In another chilling sign that auto sales are likely to remain stalled, a new study finds that Americans intend to keep their cars longer, indicating a general concern about the industry and the overall economy.

The number of new-car buyers planning to keep their rides more than four years has risen to 59 percent, according to a study released Tuesday by California marketing research firm AutoPacific. That's an increase from last year, when about 45 percent of new buyers intended to wait more than four years for their next purchase, and it's up from 2005's tally of 46 percent.

Reinforcing this, more than 72 percent of the general public said they are not planning to buy a new car for more than a year.

Consumers also appear to be changing their behavior in response to the economy, AutoPacific says. “Rapid replacers,” people who get a new car every one or two years or less, are on the decline.

AutoPacific president George Peterson said this means consumers are going to place higher priority on vehicles known for their quality and durability. This is in contrast to the incentive-fueled sales figures of recent years that propped up market share for companies, often at the expense of profits.

“We'll not be seeing the frequent-replacement pattern brought about by strong incentives and financing programs that made it easy and financially reasonable over the last decade for consumers to get into a new car frequently,” he said in a statement.

In June, the seasonally adjusted sales rate for new cars fell to 9.5 million, down from 9.9 million in May. That went against analysts' forecasts of signs of a recovery.

AutoPacific's survey on the Internet involved more than 32,000 respondents.

By Greg Migliore