Auto Industry Stages Comeback from Near-Death Experience

Michael Renner | Jul 12, 2011

Following a precipitous plunge in 2008 and 2009, the world’s auto industry saw production and sales soar in 2010. According to London-based IHS Automotive, passenger-car production rose from 45.3 million in 2009 to 54.9 million in 2010.1 (See Figure 1.) Including so-called light trucks (which are also used to transport passengers), the numbers shot up from 60 million to a new record of 74.7 million.2 Global sales of all light vehicles increased from 72.2 million in 2009 to 75.4 million in 2010.3

About 50 countries worldwide produce cars.4 Seventeen of them each made at least 1 million light vehicles in 2010.5 South Korea (4.2 million) and India and Brazil (3.2 million each) continue to rise up the ranks, whereas once-strong second-tier producers like the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Canada are losing ground.6

The top four producers—China, Japan, the United States, and Germany—are in a league of their own, together accounting for 53 percent of global output.7 The pecking order among them, however, has changed dramatically in just a handful of years. (See Figure 2.) Japan overtook the United States as the largest producer in 2006, but it held that distinction for just three years, at which point China’s production shot up.8 Although still behind in terms of technological sophistication, China is accelerating the volume of cars it churns out. Its light-vehicle production has more than tripled since 2005, reaching 16.8 million in 2010—as many vehicles as produced in Japan and the United States combined.9

Auto Production Figure 1

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