Cars Lasting Longer The Real Reason For Auto Industry Woes?


WASHINGTON – Back in the 1970s when Pat Goss was working in automotive repair, 100,000 miles was considered the benchmark of a car’s longevity. Well-maintained Dodge Darts with more than 300,000 miles were a rarity. Now, with advanced technology, improved engines and synthetic oils, crossing the 100,000-mark on the odometer is not much cause for celebration.

“We consistently, on any given day, usually have multiple cars with 150,000 to 250,000 miles and quite frequently cars well over that,” said Goss, owner of Goss’ Garage in Seabrook, Md., and host of radio and TV car-talk shows.

A report released this week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said passenger cars and light trucks are racking up more miles than ever. Typical passenger cars are now surpassing 150,000 miles, while most pickups, sport utility vehicles and vans are crossing the 180,000-mile barrier.

A report in 1995 said most passenger cars broke 125,000 miles and light trucks typically reached the 150,000-mile mark.

Auto industry officials say it underscores the strides made in engineering and quality control in recent years with a focus on longterm durability. Today’s vehicles have more advanced engines, improved spark plugs, higher-performance synthetic oils and better exhaust systems.

This makes me wonder…if cars are lasting longer in the market wouldn’t it be logical to conclude that this would drive down demand for new cars? And if that’s true, couldn’t it also be true that this increased durability has played into the woes faced by Ford and General Motors of late?

Foreign auto makers have long outstripped domestic car companies in terms of producing durable automobiles, so I would expect that the increases in longevity detailed above have to do, mostly, with an increase in the quality of domestic car craftsmanship. And if product turnover in the domestic auto market has decreased it means that domestic car companies, primarily Ford and General Motors, are selling fewer cars.

If you couple this reality with the fact that these companies are unable, in a lot of ways, to reduce costs and adapt to a changing market thanks to stiff wage and labor requirements foisted upon them by unions – and to a lesser extent the federal government – you can see where a lot of the problems being faced by Ford and General Motors are coming from.

At least, that’s what it looks like to this observer. It may well be that these companies did such a good job increasing the quality of their products that they’ve worked themselves in to a corner.

You can read more from Rob Port at

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