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The Aging of Passenger Cars

Posted June. 29, 2005 06:01,   


Lim Jong-chul (55), a self-employed man in Gimpo City, Gyeonggi Province has been driving Hyundai Motors “Marcia” he bought at the end of 1995 for 10 years now.

Lim said, “It has run 250,000 km so far, but is still manageable so I am planning to drive it for a while longer,” adding, “In the past, I used to change my car two times every three years, but now the bad economy makes it burdensome to buy a new one.”

There are an increasing number of people like Lim who rarely change their cars because of the higher quality of cars and the economic downturn. The average life span (the duration of a car being driven from the time of delivery) of a car has been longer with lower demand for new cars.

One out of Four Passenger Cars Is “10 Years and Older”–

According to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA) on June 28, the number of registered cars as of last month was 10.8 million whose average life span was 6.8 years.

The average life span of a car got longer from 3.8 years in 1996 to 4.3 years in 1998 and 5.9 years in 2003. For the first time last year, it exceeded more than six years (6.2 years), and this year it is close to seven years.

About one out of four passenger cars is “an old-age” car aged 10 years and older.

About 23.9 percent of the total registered cars are older than 10 years, amounting to 2,577,700 with those aged more than 15 reaching 166,200 (1.5 percent).

It means out of the total registered cars as of May 2002 amounting to 9.29 million, those aged 10 years and older took up double the share in three years, whose figure used to stand at around 1.05 million (about 11.4 percent).

Even a Decrease of “New Cars” -

The life span of cars increased thanks to the higher quality of a car. Another reason to drive a car longer is there are fewer drivers due to traffic jams. According to the Korea Traffic Safety Authority, the average daily mileage of passenger cars decreased from 132.2 km in 1984 to 52.7 km in 2003.

As of now, the average life span of an automobile in Korea is similar to those whose automobile market is mature such as Japan (6.7 years), Germany (6.7 years) and the United Kingdom (6.9 years). Even though the number of overall registered cars has increased, newly built cars of less than two years decreased from 1.56 million in May 2002 to 1.42 million last month, along with the ratio reduced from 16.7 percent to 13.1 percent. It shows how new demand for cars is decreasing regardless of the longer life span of automobiles.

Sung-Won Joo swon@donga.com