Vehicle Production Rises, But Few Cars Are “Green”

Michael Renner | May 21, 2008

According to Global Insight, global passenger car production in 2007 rose to 52.1 million units from 49.1 million the previous year.1 In addition, production of “light trucks” ran to 18.9 million, up from 17.9 million in 2006, for a combined total of 74.1 million.2 Global Insight projects 2008 total production to reach 75.8 million.3 (See Figure 1.) Including unused production capacity, the world’s auto companies are capable of churning out some 84 million vehicles per year. PricewaterhouseCoopers projects that by 2015 worldwide capacity to grow to 97 million units.4

Japan produced the most vehicles in 2007, 11 million, closely followed by the United States with 10.5 million.5 China’s production continues to surge, reaching 8.1 million vehicles in 2007. Projected 2008 output of 9.3 million would bring it almost to a par with the United States, whose production is expected to decline to 9.5 million units. 6 The next largest producers are Germany (6 million) and South Korea (4 million).7 (See Figure 2.) France, Spain, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico each produced between 2 million and 3 million units.8 At 1.95 million vehicles, India is close to joining the top 10.9

The world’s fleet of passenger vehicles is now an estimated 622 million, up from 500 million in 2000 and a mere 53 million in 1950.10 China continues to expand not only its production but also its domestic car ownership. There are now an estimated 43–47 million vehicles on the road there—about as many as the United States had in 1947.11 India’s love affair with the automobile is taking off too. And when the country’s Tata Motors unveiled the “Nano” in 2008—a no-frills vehicle advertised as the world’s cheapest car—it made a splash around the world.12

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