U.S. Car Fleet Shrinks For First Time in 50 Years, Report Says

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cars-in-usThe number of cars on U.S. roads dropped by 4 million in 2009, the only large decline in the nation’s car fleet since the government began keeping records in 1960. While consumers bought 10 million cars during the year, another 14 million vehicles were scrapped, dropping the total to 246 million vehicles, despite the government’s “cash for clunkers” program that gave individuals as much as $4,500 to exchange older cars for more fuel-efficient models.

Analysts cited numerous factors for the decline, including high gasoline prices, improved public transportation, and the popularity of online social networking, which for many teens has replaced the automobile as a way to socialize. In a report analyzing the decline, the Earth Policy Institute says the decrease is not merely a temporary phenomenon caused by the recession.

The group says U.S. car ownership has reached a point of saturation, and the nation’s car fleet could drop another 25 percent by 2020. Currently, there are 117 vehicles for every 100 licensed Americans, but high debt and other costs of car ownership will make consumers less likely to keep more cars than they use, said Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute. Many families with three cars will likely cut back to two, he predicts, and those with two may cut back to one or none.

Article appearing courtesy of Yale Environment 360

[photo credit: EA]

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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