Between 1950 and 2008 more cars were added to our roads virtually every year as the total fleet expanded steadily from 49 million to 250 million vehicles. In 2009, however, 14 million cars were scrapped while only 10 million cars were sold, shrinking the fleet by 4 million vehicles, or nearly 2 percent. With record numbers of cars set to reach retirement age between now and 2020, the fleet could shrink by some 10 percent, dropping from the all-time high of 250 million in 2008 to 225 million in 2020.
The United States, with 246 million motor vehicles and 209 million licensed drivers, is facing market saturation. With 5 vehicles for every 4 drivers, the 4-million-vehicle contraction in the U.S. fleet in 2009 does not come as a great surprise. In a largely rural society, more cars provided mobility, but in a society that is now over 80 percent urban, more cars provide immobility.