There are approximately 250 million cars and light trucks in operation in the United States. Around the world, there were about 1.1 billion vehicles on the road in 2014, a number that is growing by roughly 50 million yearly.
All major car makers are aggressively pushing their smaller, high efficiency vehicles due to both high gasoline prices and government mandates that auto manufacturers meet high average miles-per-gallon rules. At the same time, engineers are pushing technological changes in their larger cars and trucks in order to enhance their fuel efficiency. GM is betting heavily on its Chevrolet Cruze, a small sedan capable of 36 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway and stuffed with convenience features that consumers appreciate. Ford’s revamped Fusion earned rave reviews, and it comes in either a hybrid model or a standard engine version that gets 31 mpg on the highway. Chrysler is relying heavily on its relationship with Fiat for new, fuel efficient models. Honda, Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan and Peugeot all have invested in new, advanced small cars. All major luxury brands like Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Audi have relatively small cars on the market and will steadily introduce a wide range of fuel efficient designs. BMW introduced its iSeries high efficiency cars in 2013, including a three-cylinder engine that is part of a new plug-in hybrid. In 2012, the Obama Administration pushed through new fuel efficiency rules that will require an average 54.5 MPG for new cars and light trucks in 2025. This is creating a scramble at auto makers to design small, light vehicles that will still be popular with consumers—a difficult task at best. Car maker profits are likely to suffer in the process.
Both consumers and emissions regulators are taking a renewed interest in advanced automobile technologies. Clean diesel engines, like those offered in new cars from BMW, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, offer exceptional performance and fuel economy while providing quiet, vibration-free running similar to that found in gasoline-powered cars. Clean diesel offers a particularly attractive alternative to hybrid technology for those who seek fuel efficiency, and it is already widely used in passenger vehicles in Europe. Meanwhile, the use of ethanol as a gasoline additive in America has grown rapidly, whether or not it makes any environmental or economic sense, thanks to requirements enacted by Congress.
Meanwhile, technology advancements are driving greater safety in vehicles. Cars that are at least partially self-driving will be widely available by 2025, which may reduce accidents by 20% to 50%, depending. Hybrid and plug-in cars featuring advanced, lightweight, long-range batteries based on nanotechnology may be on the market by 2025. A looming question for auto makers is how demand for cars will change, as young consumers are becoming less interested in owning cars and are leaning towards car-sharing services like Zipcar and ride services like Uber.
For more data and statistics on the automobile industry, see
Plunkett’s Automobile Industry Almanac 2015 Edition
Published Date: October 2014