Pandemic’s Tie to Miles Driven – Is It More or Less?

“Americans have gotten comfortable [with] working from home and buying online,” said Gary Silberg, KPMG International Limited (KPMG) partner and automotive sector global head. Do the changes in lifestyle and increased reliance on travel in motor vehicles mean we are driving more miles or less?

KPMG recently published a report Automotive’s new reality: Fewer trips, fewer miles, fewer cars?, which highlights the decrease in the amount of miles driven by Americans. According to Silberg, in 2019 Americans racked up three trillion miles behind the wheel. “That amounts to 337 round trips from Earth to Pluto,” added Silberg. “But suddenly driving was disrupted by COVID-19.”

According to the report, as many began working from home the amount of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) declined by 64% or 160 billion miles.

The New Reality for Vehicle Usage

COVID-19’s effects are expected to be felt for years to come, according to the report. “We believe the changes in commuting and e-commerce are here to stay and that the combined effect or reduced commuting could be as much as 270 billion fewer vehicle miles traveled each year in the U.S.,” a portion of the report reads.

With fewer people taking to the roads, KPMG claims some vehicle owners may decide that they no longer need more than one vehicle per household. The company estimates that average car ownership could decline to 1.87 vehicles per household, which means there is potential for fewer vehicles that would need auto glass repair and replacements.

“Falling VMT would also affect aftermarket parts and services, as less driving means less wear and tear on vehicles, as well as a decline in accidents,” a portion of the report reads. However, the impact on parts and services could increase the demand for autonomous vehicles used for commercial services, according to the report.

“Many of the electric powered [vehicles] have some autonomous controls, [which] eliminates the need for a driver,” a portion of the report reads. “The automotive business needs to understand and prepare for this unexpected challenge.”

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