Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How many more cars are coming?

The November 15th issue of The Economist has a 20 age centre section on cars in emerging markets. If you can get a copy to read, do so as it is illuminating.

Here are some factoids that come out of it.

  • Even though 2008 is likely to be the worst year for total cars sold in the US since 1982, it will still set a global record for cars sold of about 59 000 000 cars.
  • Total cars sales in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will equal US sales this year at 14 000 000. In 2001 total sales in the BRICs was 4 000 000 cars.
  • There were 600 million cars on the road in 2005. In 2020 this will be 1.1 billion, 2030 it will be 1.5 billion and in 2050 it will be 2.6 billion cars. Details in this IMF report.
The emerging markets are going to be buying a lot of cars in the next few decades. The global car industry is going to be making its money off of the BRICs and countries near them.

What policy wonks and activists have to understand is that people want to own cars. To pretend that people in Chennai or Perm are not going to want to own cars as much as we do is folly. The new Tata Motors Nano is about 1/3 the price of the next cheapest car with a sales price of CDN$3000 each. It will be on the market in the next 12 months and will have a huge impact on car sales in India.

Anyone talking about climate change needs to work with the idea that there will be a lot more cars in the world. The solution has to be to work quickly towards cars that are very low or no emission vehicles.

The encouraging sign is that the battery technology needed for cars is a rapidly improving and getting to a point where fully electric vehicles is realistically in the next five years. The first generation were the hybrids like the Prius, the next generation is something like the Chevy Volt where the gasoline engine is only there as a generator to recharge the batteries.

The era of the gasoline powered car is coming to an end, in ten to fifteen years gas stations are going to start disappearing as demand drops. The era of cars is not only not coming to end, it is entering a new and bigger golden age.

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