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Future cars may live a lot longer, analysts believe

Vehicle lifecycles are typically about five years with updates sprinkled in, but the lifespan could double to 10 years.

2020 Chevy Corvette Stingray production
Fewer major changes save automakers cash.

We know the song and dance. A new vehicle arrives, it undergoes some typically mild changes after a couple years and then a new generation arrives after five years or so. It's basically how the modern car industry operates, because new and fresh cars sell. Future cars, however, may live a whole lot longer before they're replaced outright.

That's the consensus from analysts who spoke during the Society of Automotive Analysts webinar on Monday. WardsAuto reported on how things could shift in the years to come, especially as more electric cars hit the roads. Since EVs will, essentially, be immune to emissions regulations, there's even less of an incentive for automakers to make big changes. Couple the zero-emissions powertrain with the emergence of over-the-air updates, and the idea of a 10-year vehicle life cycle doesn't seem incredibly outrageous.

Tesla is a great example. The Model S continues to soldier on with few substantial changes to the interior and exterior after eight years. Yes, the car's received a succession of new battery technology along the way, but the Model S on sale today looks a lot like the Model S sold years back. The sedan did receive a slight freshening, which notably deleted the "grille," but otherwise, it hangs onto the same basic style. Meanwhile, owners still receive numerous new features via over-the-air updates to keep the car feeling fresh. OTA updates were long a Tesla-only kind of thing, but today? Even the 2021 Ford F-150 will include the technology.

The longer life cycles analysts forecast will also likely save automaker money and reserve resources for other areas, such as self-driving technology.

That's not to say every automaker will suddenly take this kind of approach. Plenty of cars need attention more often than others, such as sports cars, to keep them feeling fresh in such a niche segment. But who knows what tomorrow's technology and capabilities will bring.