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05 Jan 2010: U.S. Car Fleet Shrinks
For First Time in 50 Years, Report Says

The number of cars on U.S. roads dropped by 4 million in 2009, the only large decline in the nation’s car fleet since the government began keeping records in 1960. While consumers bought 10 million cars during the year, another 14 million vehicles were scrapped, dropping the total to 246 million vehicles, despite the government’s “cash for clunkers” program that gave individuals as much as $4,500 to exchange older cars for more fuel-efficient models. Analysts cited numerous factors for the decline, including high gasoline prices, improved public transportation, and the popularity of online social networking, which for many teens has replaced the automobile as a way to socialize. In a report analyzing the decline, the Earth Policy Institute says the decrease is not merely a temporary phenomenon caused by the recession. The group says U.S. car ownership has reached a point of saturation, and the nation’s car fleet could drop another 25 percent by 2020. Currently, there are 117 vehicles for every 100 licensed Americans, but high debt and other costs of car ownership will make consumers less likely to keep more cars than they use, said Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute. Many families with three cars will likely cut back to two, he predicts, and those with two may cut back to one or none.

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