One Billion Vehicles on Global Roads by End of 2012

Summary of New Worldwatch Institute Report


An estimated 691 million passenger cars were on the world’s roads in 2011. When both light- and heavy-duty trucks are included, the number rises to 979 million vehicles, which was 30 million more than just a year earlier. By the end of 2012, the global fleet could top 1 billion vehicles—-one for every seven people on the planet.

Production of passenger vehicles (cars and light trucks) rose from 74.4 million in 2010 to 76.8 million in 2011—-and 2012 may bring an all-time high of 80 million or more vehicles, according to new research by the Worldwatch. Global sales of passenger vehicles increased from 75.4 million to 78.6 million over the same period, with a projected 81.8 million in 2012, writes report author and Worldwatch Senior Researcher Michael Renner. The major driver of increased production and sales are the emerging economies, especially China.

Sales by Manufacturer Forecast

  1. GM                       9.2 million
  2. VW                       8.5
  3. Toyota                  8.5
  4. Renault-Nissan   8
  5. Hyundai               6.7
  6. Ford                     5.4

(Source PwC Autofacts: Quarterly Forecast Update, 1/12)

Clean Fleet Report: GM’s leadership is a testimony to their turn around since 2008. It also shows the value of U.S. CAFÉ standards that have lead automakers to improve fuel economy to the level that they can compete in China and other global markets. Still the U.S. 2025 standard of 54.5 mpg lags Japan’s 2015 standard.

China is now the largest market for GM and other automakers. The passenger vehicle fleet in China grew at an annual average rate of 25 percent during 2000-11, from fewer than 10 million cars to 73 million cars.

Prius c 2012Hybrid vehicles are growing in number, but they remain below 2 percent of total vehicle output. Hybrid-electric vehicles combine an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, along with a generator and battery. In 2011, just over 400,000 Toyota Prii, by far the best-selling hybrid, were purchased (253,000 in Japan; 137,000 in the United States; and 26,000 in Europe). Altogether Toyota has sold 4 million hybrids since 1997, of which the Prius accounts for 2.9 million. Ten Hybrid Cars with Best Miles per Gallon


Clean Fleet Report: Electric vehicle (EV) production is minimal in the Worldwatch report, which does not include China’s 150 million e-bikes, e-scooters, and LEVs.

China wants to put 5 million plug-in hybrid-electric and fully electric vehicles on its roads by 2020—-which could account for more than 40 percent of the global EV fleet that year. An analysis by Deutsche Bank Climate Advisors, however, suggests that production of 1.1 million EVs and a fleet of 3.5 million in China is a more realistic projection for 2020.

“Automobiles are major contributors to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Renner. “Greater fuel efficiency, along with the use of cleaner fuels, can help mitigate these impacts, although increases in the numbers of cars and the distances driven threaten to overwhelm fuel economy advances.”

Discussions about reducing the environmental impacts of vehicles tend to focus on technical improvements, such as engines, aerodynamic design, and fuels—-yet another concern is the distances traveled. Even though the United States has just 25 percent of the total population of the group of wealthy nations known as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2008 it alone accounted for just over 40 percent of the 10.3 trillion passenger-kilometers driven in all OECD member countries. Still, U.S. car travel is down slightly from its peak of 4.3 trillion passenger kilometers in 2005, to 4.1 trillion passenger kilometers in 2008.

This summary is based on Worldwatch Institute Vital Signs Online service. Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in more than 18 languages. For more information, visit

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About Author: John Addison

Founder of the Clean Fleet Report, author of Save Gas, Save the Planet. John writes about electric cars, renewable energy, and sustainability.

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