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Planet of the Cars: 1 Billion Cars Now Roam World Streets

Despite the current global economic rut, the world’s collection of automobiles continues to grow at a fast pace.

Sometime last year, the world’s total number of cars tipped to more than 1 billion. According to Ward’s Automotive, which used government-reported vehicle registrations and vehicle-population trends, the number of vehicles stood at 1.015 billion at the end of 2010, an increase of 35 million from 2009.

Close to a quarter of those cars are within America’s borders, according to Ward’s. The U.S. has 239.8 million cars, or about one person for every 1.3 vehicles. Americans have so many cars that there are more vehicles than there are licensed drivers to operate them, according to the Federal Highway Administration. This isn’t a new phenomenon; it’s been like that since the early 1970s.

Even so, America’s car population is now growing slowly. Ward’s says it increased by less than 1% last year.

Areas of the world that have helped the surge in cars include China, Brazil and India. China has the second-largest vehicle population with 78 million vehicles, according to Ward’s. The country saw a 27.5% increase in its car population last year, which helped it move past Japan’s car fleet of 73.9 million.

Other countries with high vehicle numbers, relative to population, include Italy, France, Japan and England, which have ratios of 1-to-1.45 to 1-to-1.7 people to cars.

It took the world only 24 years to double its automobile population. In 1986, there were about 500 million cars on the roads. That means cars are currently growing faster than the human population on a percentage basis. Can anyone say “Planet of the Cars”?

World Vehicle Population Tops 1 Billion Units (Ward’s Automotive)