80 Million Vehicles Built Globally Last Year--A New Record

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Well, the numbers are in.

Despite the lingering effects of economic recession, the world's auto industry built more vehicles in 2011 than ever in history: 80 million, in fact.

That's a new record, and the number is 3 percent higher than the 2010 total. The data comes from the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, or OICA.

China built 18.4 million, more than the next two countries--the U.S. at 8.6 million and Japan at 8.4 million--added together. You can see the group's complete summary chart here.

The 2011 total supports the idea that a surging Chinese middle class will drive global vehicle production well past 100 million a year, certainly by 2020 and perhaps considerably sooner.

So the question becomes: How many vehicles will we have on the planet in the decades to come--and what will their impact on the environment be?

Sometime early in 2010, we crossed 1 billion vehicles on the planet, according to calculations by Ward's Auto.

That total includes passenger cars and light-duty trucks, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and buses, but not heavy construction or any off-road vehicles.

Traffic in China

Traffic in China

Enlarge Photo

And it took essentially 125 years, from the first motor vehicle invented in 1886 until about two years ago.

Despite scrappage rates in the developed world--the U.S., a saturated market, has actually scrapped more cars than it's sold for three years now--surging car purchases in China, India, Brazil, Russia and other countries seem likely to grow the total dramatically in quite short order.

Which leads us to think that the second billion could come within a couple of decades.

Are we ready? Is the planetary atmosphere capable of absorbing that much additional carbon dioxide?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (10)
  1. More cars means more environmental impact? Only if there were actually extra fossil fuels available for those extra cars I would think. Fact is though that oil production seems to have hit a ceiling and has been more or less constant for the past 5 years and according to many is unlikely to see substantial further growth in the future, AKA peak oil. So more cars in China just means less oil burnt in other countries, which is ensured by the current (and future!) sky high oil prices.

  2. In Google, type in "I want to buy..." and see first three terms: 1. house, 2. car, 3. gun. Strange order, but not unexpected. All of us on the planet earth want to make themselves feel comfortable and having a car is one of the ways. It is comfort and convenience. Can the planet handle this? We are about to see! Unless most of the cars that will be manufactured are eco-friendly we will definitely feel the excess of Carbon Dioxide in the air!

  3. Journalistic work avoidance. You raised a question and failed to answer it. So a billion cars in 2010 - how many by the end of 2011. Specifically when will 1.5 billion or 2.0 billion at current growth rates will occur?

    Half done article...

    Jack Rickard

  4. A little harsh? You are raising these thoughts with those exact numbers because of the random and entirely independent thoughts of Jack Rickard? I think the article had it's intended effect.

  5. China is a huge market and with a population of 1.34 billion means China has over 1 billion more people than the USA does. India is the second highest population in the world and more cars are also being sold in India as well. What will happen is there will be a huge global spike in demand for fossil fuels and if we are not already at peak oil we will be soon. I for one want to see the USA as a leader in EV technology and hopefully this will occur since it is far better to use technology to find a solution. I am worried that if gasoline prices exceed $5 a gallon that it could lead to another recession or worse a war in the middle east since military powers will seek military action to secure their so called rights to natural resources.

  6. I love the picture at the top. It shows the dilemma of automotive transportation. We can purchase the finest luxury sedan with great acceleration and driving dynamic and yet it is incapable of doing the one thing that we really want: get us to where we want to go in a timely manner.

  7. Also, it is a little hard to tell, but it appears that all these vehicles have a single occupant.

  8. I agree with Chris, if nothing else, the price of fuel will make car ownership less and less attractive. Our cities are already designed for autos, to the extent that walking to some places is simply too far away. Most places make no provision for bike-racks.

  9. Reducing vehicle size and increasing vehicle occupancy will save some fuel. Public transportation is good in some big cities. Elecrtic and hybrid electric vehilcles, especially electric bicycles are very efficient also. The cost of electricity is going up less than liquid fuels. A plug in electric vehicle can be charged with solar power! Every other fuel is a processed fuel. Most windpower comes over the national transmisson grid, making it a domestic energy option, not necessarally local. I tell my friends,"Any fuel, but Exxon"!

  10. The 'Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011' is federal legislation that would mandate a certain percentage of vehicles sold in te USA to use an alternate fuel. Flex fuel vehicles, natural gas and electric vehicles would satisfy the requirements to meet percentage goals. All domestic, alternate fuels will reduce greenhouse gas emmissions and reduce foreign oil imports. Please learn about the 'Open Fuel Standard Act o 2011' and then tell your legislators to pass this important legislation.

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