Auto Industry Stages Comeback from Near-Death Experience

Washington, D.C.—The world’s auto industry saw production and sales soar in 2010 following a precipitous plunge in 2008 and 2009, according to the latest Vital Signs Online from the Worldwatch Institute.

The top four auto producers–China, Japan, the United States, and Germany–continue to account for the majority (53 percent) of global production. But China’s accelerated growth has eclipsed all other contenders. The country has more than tripled light vehicle production since 2005, reaching 16.8 million in 2010, as many vehicles as are produced in Japan and the United States combined.

Worldwide, industry analysts expect production of light vehicles to experience strong growth in coming years. An analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers Autofacts projects 93.5 million by 2015, with 21.4 million of those coming from China, 10.5 million from the United States, and 9.2 million from Japan. In 2011, analysts expect total sales in the so-called BRIC nations–Brazil, Russia, India, and China–to surpass total sales from Western Europe and Japan for the first time.

Other key findings in the report, which can be found online at, include:

  • An estimated 669 million passenger cars are now on the world’s roads. Including light- and heavy-duty trucks, the number is 949 million.
  • Car sales in China have soared in recent years, but the rates are expected to be lower in 2011 due to the Chinese government’s decision to raise taxes for small cars and restrict the sale of new license plates in Beijing.
  • National efficiency standards exist to regulate about 70 percent of the world’s transport-related emissions. The United States, Canada, the European Union, Japan, China, and South Korea now all have mandatory standards.
  • Fuel efficiency in all major car nations has improved since 2002. At the same time, substantial differences among individual countries remain. Japan and the EU continue to lead in fuel efficiency, while the United States, Canada, and Australia still lag behind.
  • Roughly half the world’s sales of so-called hybrid-electric cars were made in Japan, where such vehicles accounted for 11 percent of all sales. The United States was once the leading market, but hybrid sales peaked in 2007 and have fallen behind Japan since then.

For more information, including charts, trends, and graphs, please visit

Note to Editors: Journalists can obtain a complimentary copy of this Vital Signs Online by contacting Supriya Kumar at

About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch Institute delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. Worldwatch focuses on the 21st-century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty by developing and disseminating solid data and innovative strategies for achieving a sustainable society. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in more than 20 languages. For more information, visit