Gallery: Americans Ditch Over 4,000,000 Cars in 2009 for Alternative Tr...


We Americans love our cars, (or at least that’s what they’ve been telling us all these years) but this last year showed a remarkable drop in car ownership – down by 4,000,000 vehicles! Some may blame it on the recession, but analysts are linking the decline to other factors like increased urbanization, gas prices, traffic and congestion, automobile saturation and even concerns regarding climate change. This is welcome news to us and we hope this trend continues, with more people relying on public transportation, car sharing, bikes, and their own two feet.

A study by the Earth Policy Institute updated yesterday revealed that while Americans purchased 10,000,000 cars in 2009, they actually ditched 14,000,000 cars. This decline in the US car fleet by 2% could be a great sign of what is to come in terms of transportation preferences for the US. 2009 was the first year since WWII that the number of cars scrapped exceeded the number of cars sold, and more importantly the EPI study predicts that this trend will continue at least through 2020. The US car fleet is currently at 246 million cars dropping down from 250 at the beginning of 2009.

The EPI attributes the decline to many important factors, not just the recession. With 209 million licensed drivers in the US and 246 million registered vehicles, the analysts believe we have reached a market saturation. With five cars to every four drivers in the US, we certainly have enough cars to go around. Additionally, the analysts believe that other market factors are leading to the decline, likeongoing urbanization, economic uncertainty, oil insecurity, rising gasoline prices, frustration with traffic congestion, mounting concerns about climate change, and a declining interest in cars among young people.”

As our cities become denser, traffic gets worse and public transportation systems improve, people feel it is less and less necessary to have their own vehicle. In some cases it may be more of an inconvenience to deal with parking, traffic, associated fees like insurance and gasoline. Cars will certainly still have their place in rural settings, but with four out of five Americans living in an urban setting, we can only hope the trend will continue just as it did in Japan in the early 90’s. As Japan became more urbanized, they reached their car saturation point in 1990 and since then, their car fleet has dropped by 21%. This is most definitely promising news. Now let’s work on that high speed rail system.

Via CleanTechnica and The Earth Policy Institute


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  1. ramonchu January 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    “Green car” is an oxymoron. No mater what a car runs on (and even then–electric car batteries are made with equally scarce, faraway materials buried under already exploited parts of the world), it still takes enormous amounts of energy to manufacture a vehicle as well as to dispose of it. This was a little talked about issue in the cash for clunkers program, with pollution generated from scraped cars and the manufacture of new vehicles actually grossly outweighing any pollution benefits gained by people driving cars that get 5 more miles to the gallon. But the “green” aspect was so thinly veiled, it was easy to see that the American government is prepared to subsidize the bankrupt and backwards automobile industry till the last car stands, for any number of irrational, political reasons.

    Any car, electric, diesel, hydrogen, whatever, still requires freeways and parking lots, still inspires suburbia and autocentric planning, still locks people into little metal boxes and destroys communities and creates a built environment which induces such severe confusion, anger, and hopelessness in Americans that we find ourselves in the midst of a society easting itself to death, stunningly over medicated and depressed, glorifying tribal violence, and regularly accepting the brutal deaths of nearly 50,000 people at the hands of our transportation system as one big chain of “accidents.”

    We need to end this Carmageddon, before it ends us.

  2. GTO January 7, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Actually michellegoesgreen, the Big 3 have many vehicles that have better fuel economy than their Japanese or Korean counterparts.

    I also find it interesting that I rarely, if EVER, hear about peoples’ gripes with European import automobile fuel economy. In my opinion, that is mostly because the Europeans have been able to successfully remain hidden in their invisible ivory tower as they continue to pump out highly ineffecient, grossly-polluting vehicles for the foreign market.

    You must understand the market situation and differences between the 3 “producing markets.”

    1. All markets currently cater the majority of their business to 1 market, the U.S. automobile market.
    2. 90% of models produced for the US are not found elsewhere
    3. 90% of the models produced for markets other than ours are not available here because we dont want ‘ugly, small, effecient, meant-to-carry-you-from-point A-to-point B’ cars. We want big and dumb and useless, but also powerful so we can tow our yachts and RV’s, etc. and so forth.

    This industry is consumer/market driven. While I am glad that the market is changing for the better and we are becoming vastly more effecient in how we move than even 10 years ago, people should really get off of their high green horses and realize that things take time to change.

  3. michellegoesgreen January 7, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    That’s great people are finally deciding on using the more earth friendly means to transportation but what concerns me is that American car companies haven’t really embraced the concept of “green” when it comes to cars. Yeah, they have a bit but not like Toyota. When will the Detroit three realize gas guzzlers aren’t the future of cars?

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