l'Arc de Triomphe

Here's a shocking statistic: The United States has fewer cars per capita than Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and 16 other countries. Even more dramatic is one of the potential causes: A declining American middle class.

According to an Atlantic report on a new study conduct by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, we're ranked just 25th in the world in per-person car ownership. The actual number stands at 439 cars per 1,000 Americans. Further, the U.S. is an outlier when you compare the number of vehicles per capita to household consumption. While we have one of the highest rates of household spending, car buying is in decline here. It is this disparity that points to the widening income gap in the U.S. as a potential cause of our low rate of car ownership. Indeed, car ownership rates track with the size of a nation's middle class, according to the report.

To add insult to injury, despite our low rates of car ownership, Americans still consume roughly twice as much energy as most Europeans.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 169 Comments
      JIM J
      • 2 Years Ago
      Most of the easy energy savings on vehicles has been accomplished. The media and EPA would have us believe if we just stopped driving SUVs and Pickups all our energy problems would go away. When was the last time you saw or heard HOW energy is used in the U.S. How much is used by the airline industry, rail, military, over-the-road trucks, etc. I would offer a lot more could be saved by tweaking one or all of those areas than continuing to make car drivers pay more and more for each additional add-on that saves less and less - the next best thing.
        AngeloD
        • 2 Years Ago
        @JIM J
        I disagree that the easy energy savings steps have already been taken. US emissions regulations are so overly strict that diesels are almost unheard of in passanger cars sold in the USA. If the EPA could be reined in, and diesel emission standards made to match Europe's, we would see dramatic increases in fuel economy in the US passanger car fleet.
        Rob J
        • 2 Years Ago
        @JIM J
        I'm sorry but that is total garbage. Saying all the easy goals have been accomplished in terms of personal transportation will neve make sense when a 170 pound man is still driving a 4,000 pound SUV to pick up 20 pounds of groceries from 20 miles away. The easier and cheaper gas saving goals are still right infront of you. Buy smaller and drive less.
      rmkensington
      • 2 Years Ago
      Thats because we are spread out and a lot of people live in big houses, not apartments. We also dont exactly drive the most fuel efficient vehicles when gas in $3.50 a gallon.
        John Ward
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rmkensington
        Plus the fact that we are so spread out makes it much more difficult for mass transit or things like the trains they have in other countries. In some of the bigger cities we have half way decent mass transit, but the bigger problem is that a lot of people don't live downtown.
      spinftwin
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think the average age in each continent has something to do with car ownership too. Kids (age 0-20) make up a much bigger percentage of the American population than in Europe, and almost none of them own cars for obvious reasons...
      Isaac
      • 2 Years Ago
      254,212,610 passenger vehicles are in the US registered to drive in 2009. 308,745,538 people were counted in the US in 2010. That comes to 823 vehicles per 1000 people. Many of which are not of driving age. This stat is total bogus as posted.
        Rob J
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Isaac
        Uhhhhh... You do realize that between company vehicles, rental vehicles, families with multiple vehicles (I have a friend who's father owns a Land Cruiser, a Tundra, 2 old Mercs and a 911) there are a frickload of cars out there right? There is a reason that America is the most over-consumptive nation on earth.
          Isaac
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rob J
          What is "over-consumptive" To me, that is when your expenses are more than your intake. The US government does that; but the vast majority of citizens are not. Energy used is energy wanted. Until it cannot be afforded, it isn't over consumed, or if it runs out. Thankfully, that wont happen in our grandchildren's lifetimes.
        midwest9040
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Isaac
        Good work Isaac. Actually the number is 828.7 since the population on July 1st 2009 was 306.77 million. Hopefully the author will retract his article due to poor research on his part.
      Joel
      • 2 Years Ago
      "To add insult to injury, despite our low rates of car ownership, Americans still consume roughly twice as much energy as most Europeans. " How is this adding insult to injury? If something is cheaper is it not obvious that we use more of it?
      kakazsh@gmail.com
      • 2 Years Ago
      Energy in general, but NOTenergy consumed by cars only. Very MISLEADING!
      vvk
      • 2 Years Ago
      Americans have large families with many young children. Europe has a demographic crisis, meaning very few children. Do the quoted per capita numbers exclude children?
      AndyMidd
      • 2 Years Ago
      This just doesn't make any sense. In my small world at least... I live in the UK, and most families I know of have 1, 2 cars max. I have family in the US, and I have visited quite a lot (through work as well). Car ownership seems a lot more widespread; 2, 3, 4 cars being fairly common. I have family come over from the US that are surprised that we are a one car household. It seems a lot of people of 'spare' cars and 'recreational' cars, where that just is nowhere near as common in the UK.
      Colin
      • 2 Years Ago
      I've read a few of the comments and I should just like to say that the arguements Americans tend to apply to the US as a reason for 'fewer' cars also apply in Europe. There is recession, young people are generally not interested in cars like they once were and many of them are unable or unwlling to leave home. I'm not certain what the statistics mean by 'cars' either, since trucks in the Us are not always counted - are they? And as for fuel usage, well certainly most Europeans don't run up huge milages (some do of course) but the fact that cars tend to be more economical, for many reasons, must play a part. New car sales are falling through the floor here because of the endless depression, but apparantly QE is working, for the moment, in America, so let's see. But I don't see how failing economies can expect car use to grow.
      AndyMidd
      • 2 Years Ago
      According to this: http://wardsauto.com/ar/world_vehicle_population_110815 ...this Atlantic report must be missing something. This states that the USA has the highest registrations vs people ratio. Maybe this Atlantic report isn't including the many trucks and SUVs in the US...
      Patrick Douglas
      • 2 Years Ago
      could it possible be that we use larger cars than Europe, Expedition vs a small Fiat. also Europe has more public transit vs in the US has almost none compaired to Europe. we have bus servie and some cities have a small amount of subway and train serivice, but nothing compaired to the rest. Not a really good comparison
      autablog
      • 2 Years Ago
      And Americans are driving to work 5,6,7 days a week. Europeans are not.
    • Load More Comments