Some of the best economic discussions I’ve had this month were with my automechanic. We’ve discussed solar power. Land use laws. Housing development. And yes, trends in new and used auto sales. We are both firmly in agreement: new auto sales in North America peaked this decade and are unlikely to see those levels again for a long, long time.
The next five years should see a very active trade, however, in used autos. This is good for car parts, used auto dealers, and of course automechanics. Interestingly, a trend in used cars may even attract those interested in going Green. A recent piece in WIRED magazine indicates that the resources and energy required to build new cars–even hybrid cars–constitutes a form of carbon debt that takes time, years, to pay back. By holding on to a used car, you are forestalling the trigger of new production.
The United States has about one vehicle per capita. That’s all buses, trucks, and autos. Although public policy is doing little to nothing to either help us reduce miles driven, or give Americans new public transport as an option, the price of oil has worked its magic. This is why it’s my hope, and the hope of others, that at least a portion of the now collapsed productive capacity of the US auto industry will be re-tooled to build trains and rolling stock.
We need trains. And Detroit needs the jobs.