Auto industry empty-lot

Published on January 27th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro

5

Studies Conclude Car Ownership Is On The Decline

empty-lotReports from two different, respected institutions have been making waves in the automotive world for coming to the same conclusion; America, and the world, are past the point of automotive saturation, and rather than seeing sales expand, in a few short decades the auto industry could experience a massive contraction to the tune of tens of millions of units.

The University of Michigan’s Transportation Institute released a study on the car driving and buying habits of Americans, and it isn’t a very rosy picture. Since 2007, the number of households without a car at all has increased from 8.7% to 9.2%. In major metro areas, where many young people are flocking to, the number of people who don’t own a car is even higher.

In New York City, 56% of people don’t own a car, meaning car owners are actually a minority. 38% of Washington D.C. go without their own car, as do 37% of Boston residents. Surprisingly, Philadelphia (33%) is less into the whole car ownership thing than San Francisco (31%), though a shockingly high number of Motor City residents (26%) don’t partake in their city’s primary industry.

IHS Automotive, meanwhile, put out another story that looks at the auto industry as a whole and the prospective markets going forward. While many auto companies are touting growth in developing nations, sales in countries like China, Brazil, India, and Russia are hitting a wall. While the Chinese auto market is now the biggest in the world, the government is currently working to seriously curtail car ownership as incredible levels of pollution choke cities like Beijing.

The IHS report says that by 2035, the auto industry could see sales fall by some 30 million units annually, and worldwide car usage could drop to just 250 million vehicles. It is currently estimated that there are as many as a billion cars on the road, somewhere, these days, which would mean auto ownership would have to pretty much take a nosedive. That seems either crazy optimistic or apocalyptically devastating, depending on whom you ask. Then again, the first signs of rebellion against car ownership are already cropping up.

Some cities are going even further though, laying down plans to outright ban cars from the inner metro. Hamburg, Germany is working out the details of a centralized “Green Network” plan that by 2034 would ban cars from 40% of the city proper. Could an American metro like New York deliver on a similar plan? It wasn’t all that long ago that cars didn’t even exist, but cities like New York and Hamburg have been around for centuries.

I love cars and all, but as many millennials already know, it’s both difficult and expensive to keep a car in a crowded urban area. So many of us are learning to just live without a car, or at best splitting a car with our spouse. Then again, there’s good reason to believe that we haven’t hit “peak car” quite yet. Maybe it’s time we seriously start considering if some places wouldn’t be better off without the congestion or convenience offered by cars.

One thing we’ll have to figure out…what to do with all of those empty parking lots?

Image: Flickr




Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • Jason Carpp

    Who is doing this “study”? What I believe is going on is not that people aren’t buying cars at all. It’s that people are holding on to the cars they buy longer, and thus not buying new cars as often as they used to.

  • gendotte

    What did you expect? With all the good jobs being exported, Americans cannot afford new cars anymore.

  • Wiggletoes

    A beautiful young lady taught me Sugar Daddy economics. Just move across from a train station and she
    could live with me and we both could get to work. And just get a zipcar beamer/benz for weekend
    parties/concerts and such but we could save money sometimes and catch up on our
    reading on slow weekends. Be Good!

  • Tim Smith

    Highly paid Millennial here. My wife and I have a single car. I just don’t see a need for a 2nd car. Growing up my parents had 3 vehicles (2 cars and a truck). I can’t imagine spending my income on such a money pit. One car gets me around town and takes me on trips just fine. My wife and I both work from home, but before that we took public transit to work. I could easily afford a 2nd or 3rd car, but why waste the money. I have better things to spend it on.

  • Pingback: Interactive: The suburbanization of Toronto and the death of urban sprawl | canada.com

Back to Top ↑