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US braces for more summer car breakdowns

Cheaper gas, older cars and less money available for maintenance has the largest US motor club predicting it will come to the aid of 100,000 more motorists this summer than last, it said Thursday.

The American Automobile Association (AAA), which has 51 million members, expects to be called out by 7.3 million motorists and to have to tow more than three million vehicles because its mechanics will not be able to fix the problem at the roadside, the automobile club said.

"AAA believes a combination of lower gas prices, consumers holding onto their vehicles longer and some motorists cutting regular maintenance from their budgets will drive an increase in the need for roadside assistance this summer," said AAA Automotive vice president Marshall Doney.

Americans cut back sharply on the number of miles they drove last summer as the price of gas hovered at around four dollars a gallon (3.78 liters).

In May 2008 -- the start of the summer driving season -- Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer miles compared to the same month in 2007.

Gas prices are projected to average 2.23 dollars per gallon this year, down almost 1.60 dollars from last summer, the US Department of Energy said in a report issued last month.

Meanwhile, as many Americans tighten their belts in the crumbling economy, more are tending to hold on to their cars longer.

US auto sales hit their lowest rate since the start of the 1980s in February this year as the US economic crisis deepened.

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Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:May 7, 2009
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