Automobile Production Sets New Record, But Alternative Vehicles Grow Slowly

World auto production set yet another record in 2012 and may rise even higher during 2013. According to London-based IHS Automotive, passenger-car production rose from 62.6 million in 2011 to 66.7 million in 2012, and it may reach 68.3 million in 2013.1 (See Figure 1.) When cars are combined with light trucks, total light vehicle production rose from 76.9 million in 2011 to 81.5 million in 2012 and is projected to total 83.3 million in 2013.2

Just four countries—China, the United States, Japan, and Germany—produced 53 percent of all light vehicles worldwide, and the top 10 accounted for 76 percent.3 (See Figure 2.) At 18.2 million vehicles, China produced almost as many as the next two countries—the United States and Japan—combined.4 Germany’s and South Korea’s production is declining slightly, while that of India, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and Thailand is gaining.5

Automobiles are major contributors to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Fuel efficiency standards are compelling manufacturers to produce cleaner cars that emit less carbon per kilometer driven. As of 2012, Japan, the European Union (EU), and India have the lowest limits, at between 128 and 138 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer (g CO2/km), whereas allowable emissions are in the range of 198–205 grams in Australia, Mexico, and the United States (for light-duty vehicles).6 (See Figure 3.)

Figure 1

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