Vehicle Sales, United States, 1931-2021

Vehicle Sales, United States, 1931-2021

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis. Note: sales figures between 1942 and 1951 are not available because of the disruptions brought by the Second World War).

From the 1930s to 2000, car sales in the United States have steadily grown, with fluctuations closely related to economic cycles of expansion and recession. The United States has become a mature and saturated market concerning car sales since most of the adult population has a car or has ready access to a car, and most sales are thus replacement sales. Another trend has been the growing share of light truck sales, such as sports utility vehicles, in total sales, accounting for about 77% of all sales since 2021. Total sales are peaking for a variety of reasons:

  • Consumers tend to use and keep their vehicles for a longer period of time. While as early as 2001, consumers were keeping their car on average for 34 months, this figure surged to 60 months in 2009 and 71 months in 2019.
  • The mechanical reliability and durability of vehicles have improved, which is reflected in the median age of cars, which more than doubled between 1970 (4.9 years) and 2021 (12.0 years).
  • Younger generations are less prone to use the automobile and rely more on public transit and ride-sharing services.