America’s Cars And Low Population Density May Be Key To The Low Virus Impact

Mar. 13, 2020 11:58 AM ETFord Motor Company (F), GMSTLA, TSLA4 Comments
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Contributor Since 2008

I am a former sell-side analyst -- UBS 1996-2002, Needham 2002-2006 and ThinkEquity 2006-2008. These days I review automobiles and other technology products, as well as analyze the automotive and technology industries, and coming up with long/short ideas. I also continue to write (less frequently) on macroeconomics and politics.


  • If it turns out that the latest virus scare impacts the U.S. less than most other countries, we will need an explanation.
  • In this article, I offer a theory that consists of two factors: Population density and individual car ownership.
  • Basically, in the U.S. we have a much lower population density than most other relevant countries, and we are far more prone to drive our own car.
  • In those other countries, more people are cramped into high-rises, and they ride the bus or take the train/subway to/from work.
  • It only stands to reason that you are far more protected against bugs if you live in a house on a large lot and drive your own vehicle to and from work.

NOTE: A version of this article was first published on or about March 13, 2020, on my Seeking Alpha Marketplace site.

We are in the earliest stages of the post-mortem on the latest virus scare. The final verdict may be months or even years away, but we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. One of the biggest questions we have to analyze is the critical factor if it turns out that the per-capita virus impact in the U.S. is less than most other countries around the world.

Let me get straight to my point, which you may not have heard elsewhere: The American love for the individually driven automobile. Yes, Americans own and drive their own cars more than other countries -- and the U.S. is also a far more rural country than those other countries.

So, we have this combination of two factors that benefit us here in the U.S., in terms of our probability of spreading a virus:

First, the U.S. is a far more rural country. Here are some examples of population per square mile:


pop / sq.mile



South Korea






























Source: List of countries and dependencies by population density

As you can see in the table above, the U.S. is approximately one order of magnitude -- plus or minus -- more rural than many of the other relevant countries. Just look at those wide swaths of sparsely populated land around The Rocky Mountains. You could fit entire European and Asian countries into that land mass.

That brings me to the second point: The American automobile.

One consequence of being a dramatically less densely populated country, is that most Americans don’t take the bus, train or subway to or from work every day -- or ever. In America, we drive our own car -- or SUV or pickup truck, a big one. We have lots of space around us, and we don’t need to encounter any other individual inside a confined space on our way to or from work.

Isn’t it obvious that if you’re packed into a bus or subway car with 75 other coughing people, you’re more likely to spread a disease? Whatever you might have gotten on that subway or bus, you wouldn’t have gotten it in your own vehicle.

Conclusion: America’s two natural advantages

Compare these two:

  1. Country A: People live in skyscrapers, riding the elevator with other people in and out. They take the bus, train or subway to and from work.

  2. Country B: People live in houses on large lots, driving their own SUV or pickup truck to work. No elevator, no people around them.

It really isn’t a mystery why the virus scare may impact the U.S. a lot less than those far more densely populated countries, where a lot fewer people drive their own cars to and from work.

This is something that the automotive industry should celebrate about America: We live closer to nature, we drive our own cars, and this makes us more resilient against all sorts of other things, including nasty bugs. Why isn’t this being marketed by the American car companies, such as Ford (F), General Motors (GM), Tesla (TSLA) and FCA (FCAU)?

Small wonder government officials, always seeking to control the population and make them dependent on government crisis management, are at war with the automobile and rural America. They want you off that farm, out of your car, instead living in a high-rise in a city, where you can be controlled and be more dependent on our government.

That’s what’s behind all of this.

The global automotive industry should market itself accordingly -- and proudly so. With some luck, it could lead to a revival of the individually owned and driven vehicle, instead of collective and automated transport.

Disclosure: I am/we are short TSLA.

Additional disclosure: At the time of submitting this article for publication, the author was short TSLA. However, positions can change at any time. The author regularly attends press conferences, new vehicle launches and equivalent, hosted by most major automakers.

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