Today, we got more charts from the EIA that the “peak car” phenomenon is very real, which should give the auto industry prospects for rapid growth.
The one exception to the trend, meanwhile, should have the entire country concerned.
Here’s what we know about peak car so far: as The Atlantic’s Jordan Weissman observes, Now log fewer miles on the road, are less likely to obtain driver’s licence, and are already buying fewer vehicles.
So let’s start with the new bad news for automakers. The EIA says vehicle miles traveled per licensed driver peaked in 2007, at 12,900 miles per year. By 2012 it had decreased to 12,500 miles.
While the measure once tracked economic activity, the agency says, it has since decoupled in response to a host of social, demographic, environmental, and technological factors.
The numbers keep going up. But they now go up much more slowly. The EIA’s new reference case says that the compound annual growth rate of VMTs (Vehicle Miles Traveled) among licensed drivers from 2012 to 2040 will be 0.9%. That is well below the 1.7% rate from 1995 to 2005, and only slightly higher than 0.7% average annual growth rate from 2005 through 2012.
Check it out:
That’s the bad news for automakers. It turns out there’s worse news for the rest of us: The EIA says vehicle use by drivers 65 and older will have climbed 12% between 2012 and 2040:
That is greater than any other age cohort. Compare this with rates for other age groups over the same period:
- Effectively zero for 25-34 year-olds
- An increase of 7% among 35-54 year-olds
- An increase of 9.8% among 55-64 year-olds
Why does this matter? Drivers aged 65 and older experience the third-highest traffic fatality rates among age groups, after teens and 20-somethings, although the rates among the latter two groups have declined precipitously, while the decline among the elderly has held at a relatively steady rate:
According to The Hartford, The rate of risk for adults over age 75 is nearly equal to the risk of younger drivers age 16 to 24.
By 2025, individuals aged 65 and older will represent about a quarter of the adult population, up from just one-sixth in 2012. With the caveat that this group has increased its use of public transit by 40% between 2001 to 2009, the EIA says
“more members of the older population are obtaining their licenses than in the past.”