Drivers Neglect Maintenance

Drivers intend to keep their vehicles longer than they originally intended, but may not be adjusting their maintenance habits to keep pace with their change in plans, according to a survey commissioned by ExxonMobil. The survey polled drivers who are ages 18 and older and participate in the decision-making about automotive maintenance. Many dealerships, suffering from a decline in vehicle sales, are

Drivers intend to keep their vehicles longer than they originally intended, but may not be adjusting their maintenance habits to keep pace with their change in plans, according to a survey commissioned by ExxonMobil.

The survey polled drivers who are ages 18 and older and participate in the decision-making about automotive maintenance.

Many dealerships, suffering from a decline in vehicle sales, are attempting to make up for such losses by beefing up service department activities on the assumption that customers with older cars will need more maintenance and repair work.

But poll results suggest that, while the attitude of drivers towards their cars has changed as a consequence to the uncertainty of today's economy, few of these drivers are adjusting their maintenance habits to account for the extra miles they intend to log.

Key survey findings include:

  • Drivers intend to keep their vehicles for a long time. Just over 40% of survey participants want to keep their vehicles for 150,000 miles or more (and nearly a quarter of them — 23% — intend to go more than 200,000 miles).

  • Economic instability changed drivers' plans. More than one-third of those surveyed say they now intend to keep their vehicles longer than they planned when they bought them; of those, nearly half (48%) cite economics as the reason.

  • While more people want to keep their vehicles longer, very few are using the best possible motor oils in their engines.

  • Few follow the manufacturer's recommendations for maintenance precisely. Only 21% are following the directions and warnings of their vehicle's manufacturer the way they should be to keep their car in the best condition.

“It's admirable that so many drivers are looking to get more use out of their vehicles,” says Ray McDonald, an ExxonMobil technical advisor. “It's important for drivers to remember that the time to prepare their vehicles for all of those extra miles is now.”

Meanwhile, an AutoPacific annual survey of new vehicle buyers also shows a significant increase in the number of people planning to hold onto their cars and trucks.

In 2005, just over 46% of new car acquirers indicated they would not be shopping for a new vehicle for four years or more; in the just completed survey that number has risen to about 59%. At the same time, the number of people intending to replace their vehicle within the next 2 years has fallen.

The Internet survey by AutoPacific, an automotive consultancy, indicates

the general public was very hesitant to invest in a new vehicle; with 72% of those surveyed saying it would be more than a year before they would be in the market to buy a new car.

That finding supports other surveys which indicate that the public is wary about the current condition of the American automobile industry and the U.S. economy as a whole.

It also appears to confirm that not only are consumers wary, but those that did make the investment intend to hold on to their vehicles longer.

“Rapid replacers don't seem to be changing their pattern, but people who previously bought a new car every one or two years have significantly scaled back their purchasing, and those who before bought every three to four years are now waiting at least an additional year,” says George Peterson, AutoPacific president.

He adds: “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.

“This may also tell us that consumers will be putting a higher priority on vehicles with a reputation for quality and durability that meets not only their short-term needs, but also their long-term expected needs.”

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