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Longer Trade-In Times Inspiring Better Design

2013 Ford Fusion

Two reports, by AutoMD and Black Book, are showing that owners are holding on to their vehicles longer and for more miles than ever, as reported by The Detroit Bureau. Ten years and 150,000 miles are no longer unusual.

The AutoMD survey showed 78% of owners plan to keep their vehicle for more than 10 years, with only 3% expected to change cars within 3 to 5 years. And according to the Black Book Study, most trade-ins will have 125,000 to 150,000 miles by the time owners get a new vehicle.

This is a significant change from the glory days of the automotive past.

There was a time when car buying was an function of fashion. The suburbs were sprawling, the interstate highways were growing, and the need for automotive mobility was exploding. It was a time when the American auto industry led the pack by far, and every year the carmakers clamored to raise the styling bar, to make their cars the must-have driveway ornament. Buying a car was an emotional decision.

With the incessant race for design dominance, the focus was on getting car ownership to turn over quickly, not vehicle longevity. Back then, when your car was approaching 100,000 miles, it was considered a bucket of bolts ready for the scrap heap.

As we know, the marketplace has evolved tremendously since that time. With the introduction of highly reliable vehicles from foreign markets, the trend moved further from fashion and closer to the car as an appliance. More and more buyers looked at their car much as they would look at their washing machine; just do the job and don’t break. As a result, we have Corollas. Unbreakable, but boring.

The refinement in reliability has boon for buyers but problematic for manufacturers. It’s great that their vehicles are more durable than ever, but longer turnover means lower sales. Add a weak economy to the mix and there is even less motivation for consumers to act.

While this may have the car companies wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth, the bottom line is that this is a win-win for the auto buyer. The carmakers will never turn their back on reliability; they can’t afford to with quality monitors like Consumer Reports and J.D. Power reporting on their every foible; so vehicles will continue to have staying power.

Where we’re seeing the push for customers is in the design of vehicles. Manufacturers know that with a poor economy and cars lasting so long, they need to motivate buyers in other ways. Sure, deep discounts always work, but that’s no way to drive profits. Creating cars that are compelling, with styling that elicits an emotional response is one way they’re looking to drive sales.

Examples abound: The new Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ no longer look like twins, with one playing dress-up. Each car is distinctive, and attractive in its own right. Niche vehicles like the Hyundai Veloster and Nissan Juke each make bold styling statements to stand out from the crowd. The entire MINI brand proved that people will pay a premium for style. Even the Corolla will apparently move beyond vanilla.

When you’ve finally found something drool-worthy, and you’re ready to trade in that old beater, prepare for your purchase at AutoBuying101.com.