What's that Bruce Springsteen song? "Glory Days?" You know where this is going, and if you don't, take a seat. America is no longer the largest auto market in the world. The People's Republic of China is. Mao would be so... proud is not the right word.
Here's the specifics. Before we start, China has around 1.3 billion citizens compared to our 310 million or so souls - let's not forget that. That said, China closed 2009 with consumers buying 13.5 million cars, whereas we sold 10.9 million here in the U.S. Running the numbers, the U.S. demand for cars fell off by 20 percent, whereas the Chinese market charged ahead, up by 40 percent.
Is the playing field totally level? Probably not, as the politburo greased the skids a bit by cutting taxes on vehicles with motors smaller than 1.6-liters. The central planners also encouraged the sales of alternate fuel vehicles, such as what's being offered by BYD. There were also programs in place to assist rural farmers in need of wheels.
Unfair comparison? Maybe, and there are also claims of the Chinese government purchasing and stockpiling vehicles to keep factory output up. Of course, we had Cash-for-Clunkers, federal and state incentives for green vehicles and giant tax loopholes that allow Hummer H2s to be taxed like farm vehicles. Also, the Federal Government, the UAW and Canada owns General Motors. And finally, does being the world's largest car market actually matter? Isn't it akin to having the world's tallest building?
[Source: The Detroit Bureau | Image: Frederick J. Brown/AFP/Getty]