The car’s obituary may be premature

A couple of headlines in the last couple of days seem to be in conflict.

Consider these stories:

Americans and their cars: A love affair on fumes?
After rising almost continuously since World War II, driving by American households has declined nearly 10 percent since 2004, a drop whose start before the Great Recession suggests economics may not be the only cause.

“There’s something more fundamental going on,” says Michael Sivak, a researcher at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

The average American household now owns fewer than two cars, returning to the levels of the early 1990s.

All of a sudden, everyone’s buying new cars
Car makers have reported their May sales figures, and the news is surprisingly good. Sales are at a seven year high.

Even high-end dealers are celebrating.

  • John

    I’m not so sure. My family is driving less than previous years, but we’re also buying a new car this year. It’s time – my car is no longer meeting our needs, so I’m getting my wife’s car and she’s getting a new one.

    Last I heard (some article I read a few months ago – ha, it’s in this article too), the age of the American fleet is the oldest it’s been in a long time. Is it possible that we are simply reaching the point where, whether we love driving or not, we need new cars?

    By the way, I used to love driving. After commuting 65 miles one way for 2.5 years, I’ve had enough. Now that we live closer to work (still 20 miles away, but only 5 from my wife’s job), apart from driving to/from work every day, I try to keep my trips short and as efficient as I can.

  • MrE85

    Either way, there is a silver lining for those of us who want to see a reduction in petroleum consumption. Newer vehicles often (not always) offer better MPG, and all newer vehicles have improved pollution controls. And if Americans really are driving less, and many indicators show this to be the case, then that’s better for our air, too.
    Slightly related: the “Absolutely Horseless” exhibit at the Bakken Museum (full disclosure, my organization is a sponsor) shows advertising from the first electric vehicles. The idea was to convince those Americans who could afford a car to buy an electric model. One ad assured potential customers these machines were “absolutely horseless,” hence the exhibit’s title.

  • jon

    Motorcycle sales have been on the rise through that time though.