Thursday, January 7, 2010

Peak vehicles?

Very interesting:

Americans scrapped 4 million more cars and trucks last year than they purchased, the first significant drop in the U.S. auto fleet in more than four decades, according to a new report.

The United States scrapped 14 million vehicles last year while buying only 10 million new ones, dropping the nation's fleet from an all-time high of 250 million to 246 million, according to the Earth Policy Institute.

Lester Brown, the author of the report, said the drop -- the first significant shrinkage the U.S. fleet has seen since record-keeping began in 1960 -- represents a "cultural shift away from the car" and estimated the fleet size will continue to recede during the next decade. He estimated the fleet could shrink a total of 10 percent by 2020.

"No one knows how many cars will be sold in the years ahead, but given the many forces at work, U.S. car sales may never again reach the 17 million that were sold each year between 1999 and 2007," Brown said. "Sales seem more likely to remain between 10 million and 14 million per year."

From Scientific American, via ggirod in this iTulip thread. The article suggests that young folks don't see as much need for cars as their parents did:
"Perhaps the most fundamental social trend affecting the future of the automobile is the declining interest in cars among young people," Brown said. "Many of today's young people living in a more urban society learn to live without cars. They socialize on the Internet and on smart phones, not in cars."
Interestingly, last week I heard an interview on The Current with a US military psychologist, who noted that the majority of the new recruits she saw didn't have driver's licences. On the other hand, ggirod thinks it might simply be that the number of two-income households is declining. Either way, this is a good thing from an environmental point of view, though it means the industrial heartland of Ontario and Michigan is going to have to adapt big time.

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