TORONTO - Six out of 10 adult Canadians plan to acquire a new or used vehicle in the next three years, and 23 percent of those say they will do it in the next 12 months, according to a survey released last week.
'This just might be the year the auto industry has been waiting for,' said Alberta Cefis, head of personal credit services for the Royal Bank of Canada.
The Canadian bank commissioned the buyers' survey.
The survey of 2,500 vehicle owners was conducted for the bank by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants of Toronto.
Cefis said the combination of an aging fleet, low interest rates, cash-back deals and other incentives 'are just the stimulus vehicle owners have been waiting for to get them back into the showrooms.'
She said the survey shows that many Canadians believe they have pushed their aging cars and trucks as far as they can go.
Respondents who plan to buy in the next 12 months own vehicles that are an average of 8.6 years old, nearly a year older than the national average of 7.7 years, Cefis said.
The survey also hinted that the leasing boom may have peaked: Only half of the respondents who now lease a new vehicle said they expect to do so again.
Another 35 percent said they will shift from leasing to ownership.
But Dave MacDonald, a senior consultant with DesRosiers, cautioned against reading too much into the lease data.
'Leasing ramped up rapidly, but has capped at about 40 percent, which tells us that there may be some natural limit to the market,' he said.
'But leasing will remain a long-term mainstay of the industry in Canada as a way to solve the affordability problem. It may be peaking, but this isn't a cool-off or a downturn.
'When a lot of these people eventually come to market, they may realize they can't afford to buy the car they want, so they'll have to lease after all.'
MacDonald said one surprise in the study was the length of time people plan on keeping their vehicles.
He said new-vehicle intenders plan to keep their vehicles 8.5 years, while prospective used-vehicle purchasers said they planned to keep their vehicles for 6.9 years.