Will Earth Have More Cars Than People?

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Does the U.S. need more cars?

Maybe it’s time to put a hold on the production of new cars for a while.

According to WardsAuto.com, the number of operational vehicles worldwide passed the 1 billion mark in 2010. And with around 60-70 million new cars selling every year, it will take only 15-20 years to double that amount.

While the odds are slim of actually getting to the point where cars outnumber the almost 7 billion people on Earth, it’s alarming that humanity has the need for over a billion carbon-emitting, fuel-drinking machines to satisfy our transport needs. According to some quick Wiki research, there are about 5 billion people on Earth over the age of 15, which would give an approximate car-to-driver ratio of 1 to 5. By that logic it would seem the current supply of vehicles is about in line with the world’s need.

However, since many developed countries, especially the U.S., consist of people who hoard as many cars as they can, ratios in specific countries tell a much different story.

Does India need more cars?

Holding the highest ratio in the world is the U.S.’s population of 310 million, at 1 car for every 1.3 people. That’s right, in this country, there are nearly enough cars for every man, woman and child to have one. Kind of disgusting, no?

Italy isn’t much better, coming in second at 1 car for every 1.45 people. The UK, France, and Japan are all around 1-to-1.7. China’s 1.3 billion population has a ratio of about 1:17, and India, with the second-largest population in the world, has a ratio of about 1:56. Maybe if we focused on building cars for the people who really need them or let the used-car markets fuel the demand in developed countries for a while we’d accomplish three goals: reduced emissions, fewer cars on the roads and better distribution of vehicle supply.

Of course, this is all pie-in-the-sky stuff that just proves a point more than anything else. It seems like the United States and other developed countries should dump some older cars before building new ones, maybe even ship a few million over to India. Spread the wealth a little, you know?

Are there too many cars in the United States?


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  1. I think people need to realize that just because a car is “old” doesn’t mean it’s a gas guzzler. Fuel efficiency depends very much on driving habits as well as how well the vehicle is maintained. Working in the shop I’ve seen really nice, strong running 10 year old vehicles and i’ve seen unmaintained crappy 2 year old vehicles that fall apart. It’s our responsibilty as owners to take care of our cars regardless of age and make them last instead just pissing away perfectly good parts and materials on some ridiculous program like cash for clunkers just to get a new vehicle that will be an “old gas guzzler” in 5 years. That accomplishes nothing. Punishing people who drive “old” cars is a joke. Some of us prefer old vehicles for good reasons, such as reliability and simplicity, and absence of unnecessary computer crap that just annoys more than it helps (ABS, traction control). Those of us who appreciate a good car regardless of age will take care of our cars and keep them running in tip top condition. Instead of punishing those who drive old (in your opinion) cars, a better idea would be to punish the idiots who never change oil, spark plugs, air filters and dont do tune ups. THEY are the problem. It really is a shame that alot of good parts and nice rare vehicles got destroyed by the ignorant cash for clunkers program because some narrow-minded politicians who know nothing about cars decided to brainwash the public into thinking old cars are “gas guzzlers”. New cars will be old someday too, might as well crush them right now before they have the chance to “guzzle gas”.

  2. I agree with Caulen. I see the point in the message, but I still couldn’t help but to feel a little attacked. My husband and I own three cars between us. Yes, it’s more than we can possibly use all at once (so don’t worry, only two can ever pollute the air at the same time) but they serve different purposes. We have a necessity for the carrying capacity of our truck, but not every day. That’s why it is the third car, so we’re not wasting gas and emissions when we have no use for it’s capabilities. Not to mention, we simply enjoy cars. To put things into perspective, look in American garages. How many are being used for just STUFF and not the cars they were built for? My family may own too many cars, but we don’t have clutter. If we don’t have a need for something, it goes to charity. And there are already charities for unwanted cars in place.

    In short, I will collect, love and use my vehicles because I am within my means to do so. :)

  3. Your article has invoked much thought in me. There are a lot of cars on our roads in the USA for sure. My husband and I each have a daily use car, he also has a collectors car hiding out in our garage, and I have a fun scooter tucked away in the shed. I am wondering if the numbers you have provided include motorcycles and mopeds. What about public transportation, are these in the count as well? I am also wondering if there is any connection between obesity rate and number of cars in each population. hmmm…. how would our population change if we made less cars and purchased less cars? Would the loss of current jobs drive people in to other areas of work, make them decide to reproduce less? Strain our public services beyond repair? Changing something like the number of cars we own could alter our way of life in so many ways.

    Thanks for the inspiration to think and consider! It is nice to get out of my mental bubble for a moment.

  4. Randy makes great points and I agree with John above too… yes there are too many cars out there and not enough incentives to get rid of old ones. Flooding the market with 60 million new cars every year isn’t doing anybody any favors. Obviously the suggestion to halt production isn’t serious, but honestly it’s not a bad idea.
    Those ratios shouldn’t surprise me, but they do. America has a car for every person? Insanity. Soon it’ll be two cars for every person. The excess needs to stop, and soon.

  5. Don’t count on the situation to abate any. Business people have convinced the governments of the world that the only viable economic model is one of constant growth. That requires the people to adopt a religion of consumption, and will quickly bankrupt the entire world, starting with established wealthy economies like American, Japan and Europe. While a growth economy can create wealth, that wealth generally goes to only a small percentage of the citizens, while destroying the environment and depleting our natural resources.

    An economic model of sustainability is a better way to go. First and foremost, such an economy sets limits on consumption and requires consumers to trade in old to get new. That tends to level out consumption and helps develop recycling technology. “Cash for Clunkers” was a good example. Although it was meant to stimulate the growth economy, it actually helped reduce the number of total vehicles by requiring an old car to get the credit to buy a new car, and the old cars went into the scrap recycling conduit. So rather than limiting the production of new cars, here are a few suggestions:
    1. Create tax credits/penaties for trade ins. A customer who turns in an older car is rewarded with a tax credit and one who doesn’t is punished with a surtax. Add to that a greatly expanded gas guzzler tax that further penalizes people who buy cars at the lower end of the fuel econmy standards for all the vehicles in that class.
    2. Create an industry that refurbishes and updates older vehicles with new technology. Imagine buying an older car that is in good condition but has a much more fuel efficient engine and drive train. You’d pay less than the cost of a new car but more than the cost of the old, unmodified car.
    3. Penalize buyers of old cars with poor fuel economy and emissions with high registration fees. Some might call that a tax on the poor, who tend to have to drive these old buckets, but if you make it less costly to get a newer vehicle, that might get older cars off the road.

    Recycling technology is also important and the government needs to set standards for recycled content as they now do for fuel economy and emissions. Manufacturers that fail to meet the goal would be penalized directly by not allowing them to sell their cars here. Creating more demand for recycled materials will also help boost the value of old vehicles so they will be more fully recycled.

    If we continue with the flawed model of economic growth, I think you’ll see the end of our current economy within the life span of the current new generation, which will probably be replaced with some form of fascism.

  6. Wow. Does it really matter how many cars I own?? I can only drive one at a time. If I own 5 cars, they are sitting at my home, NOT being driven, NOT emitting CO2. Its nobody’s business how much I own, if I work for what I have, just leave me alone.

  7. I really don’t know which side of the fence to sit on for this one. On the one hand, putting a halt to the production of new cars will also halt the gradual shift of the automobile fleet to newer, more fuel efficient and greener cars, and let’s face it, if new cars aren’t available, people aren’t going to give up their old gas guzzlers, unless there is a viable alternative.

    Otherwise, making newer cars readily available means that there will be more and more cars out there. Older ones will slowly fall by the wayside, but people might tend to keep their old monster for weekend and holiday work, and buy a new green model for the daily commute.

    I personally own 3 cars, all in current registration, at about $700 each per year here in Australia (not including vehicle or property damage insurance or service charges). That’s for just me, the driver, and my 7 year old son.

    But I have different cars for different purposes. One car for work, one for my car club, and a van as a general carrier. I could probably downsize if I had to, but I love each of my vehicles in their own way, and at least two of them would be just about worthless on the second hand market anyway, although a $700 per year saving for registration would be nice.

    I guess it boils down to the old double standard, I wish there weren’t so many cars on the road, as long as I don’t have to get rid of any of mine.

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