Blip or Trend?

Apparently for the first time in a long time the U.S. auto fleet dropped in size.

Americans bought 10 million cars last year, but scrapped 14 million.

Is this a turnaround in attitudes, or an economy-driven one-time event?

15 Comments

15 Responses to Blip or Trend?

  1. Drew Pidukken
    January 6, 2010 at 1:04 am Link

    I fear it’s reflecting America’s long slow decline since 1980.

  2. jimkarlock
    January 6, 2010 at 5:36 am Link

    Why would less autos be a good thing?

    Autos transport people faster and cheaper than the alternatives. (well not cheaper than walking or bikes unless you vlaue your time.)

    Thanks
    JK

  3. Ron Swaren
    January 6, 2010 at 6:57 am Link

    The cash for clunkers program (which stimulated foreign car manufacturers more than any) likely accounts for the high number of cars being scrapped.

  4. snolly
    January 6, 2010 at 8:20 am Link

    My wife and I sold our 2nd car last spring. It was fully paid off and cheap to run, but why keep the thing when we only used it once a month?

    I currently commute to work by bicycle, which is quicker and cheaper than driving. It’s good excercise, and it gets my blood flowing so I can be alert at work sans coffee.

  5. Doug
    January 6, 2010 at 8:46 am Link

    jimkarlok: In the suburbs it might be faster to commute by car, but from Sellwood to downtown it takes me 25 minutes to commute door-to-door, by car it takes me between 20 and 30 minutes (depending on traffic on 99e and how long it takes me to find a spot in the lot).

    Ron Swaren: You’re right, cash for clunkers is the most likely cause. People who scrapped their clunkers did have to buy new cars, however some percentage of those people (probably a significant percentage) would have sold their cars to another party rather than having them scrapped.

  6. snolly
    January 6, 2010 at 8:57 am Link

    Doug,

    Cash for Clunkers required the clunker to be scrapped. Cash for clunkers is effectively a wash in terms of the difference between new cars purchased and those scrapped.

    My guess is that people realized that the old cars they were hanging onto weren’t neccessary, and that they could save money by getting rid of them.

  7. W. K. Lis
    January 6, 2010 at 9:21 am Link

    Looks like we’re going Back To The Past, where we walked to get someplace instead of for exercise.

  8. valkraider
    January 6, 2010 at 9:46 am Link

    “Why would less autos be a good thing?”

    Because cars are wasteful. Especially in say – 5 car households.

    We have one car for three adults and one school aged child. The car sits in the driveway more than 2/3 of the days, and on days when it is used it is usually for out-of-town trips.

    The days of the one car per person in the household are probably over.

  9. nuovorecord
    January 6, 2010 at 11:01 am Link

    The Cash for Clunkers program resulted in about 685,000 cars being scrapped.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car_Allowance_Rebate_System

    So, A.) It would have represented only about 1/8 of the 4 million car difference in cars scrapped vs. cars purchased, if not for B.) Most of the Clunkers were replaced with new auto purchases.

    In other words, it had little to no impact at all on the decline. More likely is that there’s been an artifically high number of autos and tough economic times forced people to reduce. This trend has been noticed in a number of ways. A recent NY Times article outlined how Americans seem to be buying fewer things, and spending what discretionary income they have on experiences.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/business/economy/03experience.html?scp=1&sq=canoe&st=cse

  10. Douglas K.
    January 6, 2010 at 11:35 am Link

    Why would less autos be a good thing?

    Huh? Where in the original post did Chris even hint that this statistic was a good thing? He was asking about possible causes.

    I’m gonna go with “economy-driven one-time event” until we see similar patterns replicated. When you’re trying to cut expenses, it makes sense to sell the second or third car, getting rid of the monthly payments and insurance and stuff. There may be a fair number of people getting by as a one-car household until they can afford a second one.

  11. EngineerScotty
    January 6, 2010 at 12:57 pm Link

    I’m curious–14 million cars were scrapped; and about 685k were scapped as part of CFC?

    How do the rest of the cars wind up in the scrapyard–i.e. what percentage are totalled in wrecks, what percentage are not totalled, but cost too much to fix, what percentage are driveable but parted out, etc.

  12. Falbo
    January 6, 2010 at 4:26 pm Link

    I wonder if the Cash for Clunkers program inspired people to scrap their cars. Maybe they considered it, found out their car didn’t qualify, and then decided to scrap it anyway? Marketing campaigns like this can have a wide indirect effect.

  13. al m
    January 6, 2010 at 10:01 pm Link

    I suggest it may be related to THIS!

  14. Jason Barbour
    January 6, 2010 at 10:15 pm Link

    Do we know what the size of the U.S. public transportation service vehicle fleet did for the same period?

  15. Anandakos
    January 6, 2010 at 11:29 pm Link

    Doug and Douglas K (if you’re not the same “Doug”).

    You fed the troll. That is an unwise thing to do. Starvation is the only cure for supercilious windbaggery.

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