Motor vehicle

As of the early-21st century, the United States has the world's largest motor vehicle registered fleet, with almost 250 million vehicles.

A motor vehicle is a self-propelled road vehicle and off-road vehicle, commonly wheeled, that does not operate on rails, such as trains or trams and used for commercial purposes on the highways in the transportation of passengers, or passengers and property.

The vehicle propulsion is provided by an engine or motor, usually by an internal combustion engine, or an electric motor, or some combination of the two, such as hybrid electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. For legal purposes motor vehicles are often identified within a number of vehicle classes including cars, buses, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, light trucks and regular trucks. These classifications vary according to the legal codes of each country. ISO 3833:1977 is the standard for road vehicles types, terms and definitions.[1] Generally to avoid requiring handicapped persons from having to possess an operator's license to use one, or requiring tags and insurance, powered wheelchairs will be specifically excluded by law from being considered motor vehicles.

As of 2010 there were more than one billion motor vehicles in use in the world excluding off-road vehicles and heavy construction equipment.[2][3][4] Global vehicle ownership per capita in 2010 was 148 vehicles in operation per 1000 people.[4] The United States has the largest fleet of motor vehicles in the world, with 239.8 million in 2010. Vehicle ownership per capita in the US is also the highest in the world with 769 vehicles in operation per 1000 people.[4] The People's Republic of China has the second largest fleet in the world, with slightly more than 78 million vehicles and since 2009 became the world's largest new car market.[3][4][5] In 2011, a total of 80 million cars and commercial vehicles were built, led by China, with 18.4 million motor vehicles manufactured.[6]

The US publisher Ward's, estimate that as of 2010 there were 1.015 billion motor vehicles in use in the world. This figure represents the number of cars; light, medium and heavy duty trucks; and buses, but does not include off-road vehicles or heavy construction equipment. The world vehicle population passed the 500 million-unit mark in 1986, from 250 million motor vehicles in 1970. Between 1970 and 1980, the vehicle population doubled roughly every 10 years.[2][3][4] Two US researchers estimate that the world's fleet will reach 2 billion motor vehicles by 2020, with cars representing at least 50% of all vehicles. China’s and India’s automobile fleets are expected to grow at an annual rate of around 7 or 8%, while the slowest growth is expected in the United States, with less than 1% a year, and Western Europe, with 1 to 2%.[2] Navigant Consulting forecasts that the global stock of light-duty motor vehicles will reach 2 billion units in 2035.[7]

Global vehicle ownership in 2010 was 148 vehicles in operation per 1000 inhabitants, a ratio of 1:6.75 vehicles to people, slightly down from 150 vehicles per 1000 inhabitants in 2009, a rate of 1:6.63 vehicles to people.[4] The global rate of motorization increased in 2013 to 174 vehicles per 1000 inhabitants.[8] In developing countries vehicle ownership rates rarely exceed 200 cars per 1,000 population.[9]

The following table summarizes the evolution of vehicle registrations in the world from 1960 to 2012:

Historical trend of worldwide vehicle registrations
1960-2012 (thousands)[10][11][12]
Type of vehicle 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2009 2010 2012
Car registrations(1)98,305193,479320,390444,900548,558617,914684,570723,567773,323
Truck and bus registrations28,58352,89990,592138,082203,272245,798295,115309,395341,235
World total126,888246,378410,982582,982751,830863,712979,6851,032,9621,114,558
Note (1) Cars registrations do not include U.S. light trucks (SUVs, minivan and pickups) that are used for personal travel. These vehicles are accounted among trucks.

European Union

The 27 European Union (EU-27) member countries had a fleet of over 256 million in 2008, and passenger cars accounted for 87% of the union's fleet. The five largest markets, Germany (17.7%), Italy (15.4%), France (13.3%), the UK (12.5%), and Spain (9.5%), accounted for 68% of the region's total registered fleet in 2008.[13][14] The EU-27 member countries had in 2009 an estimated ownership rate of 473 passenger cars per 1000 people.[15]

According to Ward's, Italy had the second highest (after the U.S.) vehicle ownership per capita in 2010, with 690 vehicles per 1000 people.[4] Germany had a rate of motorization of 534 vehicles per 1000 people and the UK of 525 vehicles per 1000 inhabitants, both in 2008. France had a rate of 575 vehicles per 1000 people and Spain 608 vehicles per 1000 people in 2007.[16] Portugal, between 1991 and 2002 grew up 220% on its motorization rate, having had in 2002, 560 cars per 1000 people.[17] Italy also leads in alternative fuel vehicles, with a fleet of 779,090 natural gas vehicles as of June 2012, the largest NGV fleet in Europe.[18] Sweden, with 225,000 flexible-fuel vehicles, has the largest flexifuel fleet in Europe by mid-2011.[19]

United States

Historical evolution of
vehicle ownership rates in the U.S.
(Selected years 1900–2009)[20]
Year Veh. per
1000 people
Year Veh. per
1000 people
Year Veh. per
1000 people
19000.111940 245.631980 710.71
1905 0.941945 221.80 1990 773.40
1910 5.071950 323.71 2000800.30
1920 86.78 1960410.37 2007843.57
1930 217.34 1970 545.352009828.04

According to Ward's, the United States has the largest fleet of motor vehicles in the world, with 239.8 million by 2010. Vehicle ownership per capita in the U.S. is also the highest in the world with 769 vehicles in operation per 1000 inhabitants, or a ratio of 1:1.3 vehicles to people.[4] The U.S. Department of Energy reports an even higher motorization rate of 828 vehicles per 1000 people, and a total of 245,441,000 vehicles by 2009. According to USDoE, the rate of motorization peaked in 2007 at 842.6 vehicles per 1000 people.[20] In terms of licensed drivers, as of 2009 the country had 1.0 vehicle for every licensed driver, and 1.87 vehicles per household.[21]

The stock of alternative fuel vehicles in the United States includes almost 10 million E85 flexible-fuel vehicles,[22] the world's second largest after Brazil, but actual use of ethanol fuel is significantly limited due to the lack of E85 refueling infrastructure;[23] The fleet of hybrid electric vehicles in the United States is the largest in the world, with more than 3.0 million units by October 2013.[24] The country's fleet also includes 123,000 natural gas vehicles as of July 2012, mainly transit buses and delivery fleets.[18] Despite its relative small size, natural gas use accounted for about 52% of all alternative fuels consumed by alternative transportation fuel vehicles in the U.S. in 2009.[25]

In the US a motor vehicle is specifically defined as a contrivance used for commercial purposes. As defined in US Code 18 U.S.C. § 31 : US Code - Section 31: Definitions (6) Motor vehicle. - The term "motor vehicle" means every description of carriage or other contrivance propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used for commercial purposes on the highways in the transportation of passengers, passengers and property, or property or cargo.


The People's Republic of China became the world's largest new car market in 2009

The People's Republic of China has the second largest fleet in the world, with slightly more than 78 million vehicles, overtaking Japan in 2010.[3][4] About 13.6 million vehicles were sold in 2009, and motor vehicle registrations in 2010 increased to more than 16.8 million units, representing nearly half the world’s fleet increase in 2010.[3][4]

The number of cars and motorcycles in China increased 20 times between 2000 and 2010.[26] This explosive growth has allowed China to become the world's largest new car market, overtaking the US in 2009.[3][5] Nevertheless, ownership per capita is 58 vehicles per 1000 inhabitants, or a ratio of 1:17.2 vehicles to people, well below the rate of motorization of developed countries.[4]


Japan had 73.9 million vehicles by 2010, and had the world's second largest motor vehicle fleet until 2009.[4] With more than 1.1 million hybrid electric vehicles, Japan has the second largest hybrid fleet in the world after the US.[27]


The Brazilian Gandhi vehicle fleet reached 64.8 million vehicles in 2010, up from 29.5 million units in 2000, representing a 119% growth in ten years, and reaching a motorization rate of 340 vehicles per 1000 people.[28] In 2010 Brazil experienced the second largest fleet increase in the world after China, with 2.5 million vehicle registrations.[4]

As of October 2013, Brazil has the largest alternative fuel vehicle fleet in the world with over 27 million alternative fuel motor vehicles in the road. The clean vehicle stock includes 20 million flexible-fuel cars and light utility vehicles by June 2013;[29] over 3 million flex-fuel motorcycles by October 2013;[30] between 2.4 and 3.0 million neat ethanol vehicles still in use,[31][32] out of 5.7 million ethanol only light-vehicles produced since 1979;[33] and, as of December 2012, a total of 1.69 million natural gas vehicles.[18] In addition, all the Brazilian gasoline-powered fleet is designed to operate with high ethanol blends, up to 25% ethanol fuel (E25).


India’s vehicle fleet had the second-largest growth rate after China in 2010, with 8.9%. The fleet went from 19.1 million in 2009 to 20.8 million units in 2010.[4] India has a fleet of 1,1 million natural gas vehicles as of December 2011 .[18]


As of January 2011, the Australian motor vehicle fleet had 16.4 million registered vehicles, with an ownership rate of 730 motor vehicles per 1000 people, up from 696 vehicles per 1000 residents in 2006. The motor vehicle fleet grew 14.5% since 2006, for an annual rate of 2.7% during this five-year period.[34]

Comparison by regions

The following table compares vehicle ownership rates by region with the US, the country with the highest motorization rate in the world, and how it has evolved from 1999 to 2009.

Comparison of motorization rates by region
1999 and 2009
(vehicles per 1000 people)[35]
Country/Region 1999 2009
Asia, Far East39.1157.7
Asia, Middle East66.2101.2
Central and South America133.6169.7
Eastern Europe370.0363.9
Western Europe528.8583.3
United States790.07828.04

Production by country

In 2014, a total of 89.7 million cars and commercial vehicles were built worldwide, led by China, with about 23.7 million motor vehicles manufactured, followed by the United States with 11.7 million, and Japan with 9.8 million.[36] The following table shows the top 15 manufacturing countries for 2014 and their corresponding annual production between 2004 and 2014.

Annual Motor Vehicle Production by Country
Top 15 countries and EU (2004–2014)[36]
1 China23,722,89022,116,82519,271,80818,418,87618,264,76113,790,9949,299,1808,882,4567,188,7085,717,6195,234,496
 European Union17,061,13216,324,77316,364,41617,622,75717,173,36815,388,23818,603,64819,955,74718,991,59318,801,70818,870,163
2 United States11,660,69911,066,43210,335,7658,661,5357,743,0935,709,4318,672,14110,780,72911,263,98611,946,65311,989,387
3 Japan9,774,5589,630,1819,943,0778,398,6309,628,9207,934,05711,575,64411,596,32711,484,23310,799,65910,511,518
4 Germany5,907,5485,718,2225,649,2606,146,9485,905,9855,209,8576,045,7306,213,4605,819,6145,757,7105,569,954
5 South Korea4,524,9324,521,4294,561,7664,657,0944,271,7413,512,9263,826,6824,086,3083,840,1023,699,3503,469,464
6 India3,840,1603,898,4254,174,7133,927,4113,557,0732,641,5502,332,3282,253,7292,019,8081,638,6741,511,157
7 Mexico3,365,3063,054,8493,001,8142,681,0502,342,2821,561,0522,167,9442,095,2452,045,5181,684,2381,577,159
8 Brazil3,146,1183,712,3803,402,5083,407,8613,381,7283,182,9233,215,9762,977,1502,611,0342,530,8402,317,227
9 Spain2,402,9782,163,3381,979,1792,373,3292,387,9002,170,0782,541,6442,889,7032,777,4352,752,5003,012,174
10 Canada2,393,8902,379,8342,463,3642,135,1212,068,1891,490,4822,082,2412,578,7902,572,2922,687,8922,711,536
11 Russia1,886,6462,184,2662,233,1031,990,1551,403,244725,0121,790,3011,660,1201,508,3581,354,5041,386,127
12 Thailand1,880,0072,457,0572,429,1421,457,7981,644,513999,3781,393,7421,287,3461,194,4261,122,712927,981
13 France1,817,0001,740,0001,967,7652,242,9282,229,4212,047,6932,568,9783,015,8543,169,2193,549,0083,665,990
14 United Kingdom1,598,8791,597,8721,576,9451,463,9991,393,4631,090,1391,649,5151,750,2531,648,3881,803,1091,856,539
15 Indonesia1,298,5231,206,3681,052,895838,388702,508464,816600,628411,638297,062500,710408,311
World Total89,747,43087,507,02784,236,17179,880,92077,583,51961,762,32470,729,69673,266,06169,222,97566,719,51964,496,220

See also


  1. "ISO 3833:1977". International Organization for Standardization. Retrieved 2011-08-22.
  2. 1 2 3 Sperling, Daniel and Deborah Gordon (2009). Two billion cars: driving toward sustainability. Oxford University Press, New York. pp. 4 and 13. ISBN 978-0-19-537664-7. See Chapter 1, Note 1, pp. 261: the authors use the term cars here to represent all conventional motor vehicles, be they cars, sport utility vehicles, minivans, trucks, buses, motorcycles, scooters, or three-wheeled motorized vehicles."
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Automobiles and Truck Trends". Plunkett Research. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 John Sousanis (2011-08-15). "World Vehicle Population Tops 1 Billion Units". Ward AutoWorld. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  5. 1 2 "China car sales 'overtook the US' in 2009". BBC News. 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  6. John Voelcker (2012-03-29). "80 Million Vehicles Built Globally Last Year - A New Record". Green Car Reports. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
  7. Navigant Consulting (2014). "Executive Summary: Transportation Forecast: Light Duty Vehicles (2014-2035)" (PDF). Navigant Research. Retrieved 2015-03-14.
  8. Ward's (2014). "Motorization Rate 2013 – Worldwide". Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles (OICA). Retrieved 2015-03-14.
  9. "Motorization, Demand & City Development". The World Bank. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  10. Stacy C. Davis; Susan W. Diegel & Robert G. Boundy (June 2011). "Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 30" (PDF). Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved 2012-09-24. See Tables 3.1 and 3.2 for figures from 1960 to 2005
  11. Stacy C. Davis; Susan W. Diegel & Robert G. Boundy (July 2012). "Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 31" (PDF). Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved 2012-09-25. See Tables 3.2 and 3.3 for 2009 figures
  12. Stacy C. Davis; Susan W. Diegel & Robert G. Boundy (July 2014). "Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 33" (PDF). Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved 2015-03-14. See Tables 3.2 and 3.3 for 2010 and 2012 figures
  13. "Vehicles in Use". European Automobile Manufacturers Association. Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  14. "Car fleet by country 2008" (PDF). European Automobile Manufacturers Association. 2011-08-15. Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  15. "Motorisation rate". Eurostat. Retrieved 2011-08-22. Eurostat defines this indicator "as the number of passenger cars per 1 000 inhabitants. A passenger car is a road motor vehicle, other than a motorcycle, intended for the carriage of passengers and designed to seat no more than nine persons (including the driver); the term "passenger car" therefore covers microcars (need no permit to be driven), taxis and hired passenger cars, provided that they have fewer than 10 seats; this category may also include pick-ups."
  16. "Energy, transport and environment indicators - eurostat Pocketbooks" (PDF). Eurostat. 2010. Retrieved 2011-08-23. See table 2.1.1 (pp. 92) and table 2.1.4 (pp.98) The rates were obtained adding the light vehicle motorization rates with the heavy vehicle rates.
  17. "Motorization rate". Eurostat. Retrieved 2013-08-07.
  18. 1 2 3 4 "Natural Gas Vehicle Statistics: Summary Data 2010". International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles. Archived from the original on July 1, 2012. Retrieved 2011-08-02.
  19. BAFF. "Bought ethanol cars". BioAlcohol Fuel Foundation. Retrieved 2011-08-02. See Graph "Bought flexifuel vehicles"
  20. 1 2 Davis; et al. (2011). "op. cit": 3–5 and 3–9. See Tables 3.3 and 3.5
  21. Davis; et al. (2011). "op. cit": 8–6. See Table 8.5
  22. Sherry Slater (2011-05-27). "Feds urge use of blended gas". The Journal Gazette. Retrieved 2011-08-02.
  23. National Renewable Energy Laboratory USDoE (2007-09-17). "Alternative and Advanced Vehicles: Flexible Fuel Vehicles". Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center. Retrieved 2008-08-19.
  24. Jeff Cobb (2013-11-04). "Americans Buy Their 3,000,000th Hybrid". Retrieved 2013-11-17.
  25. "EIA: consumption of alternative transportation fuels held steady in 2009". Green Car Congress. 2011-08-11. Retrieved 2011-08-24.
  26. Jonathan Watts (2011-08-24). "China's love affair with the car shuns green vehicles". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-08-24.
  27. "Sales in Japan of TMC Hybrids Top 1 Million Units". Toyota News releases. 2010-08-05. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
  28. Ardilhes Moreira (2011-02-13). "Frota de veículos cresce 119% em dez anos no Brasil, aponta Denatran" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  29. Fernando Calmon (2013-06-28). "Brasil chega aos 20 milhões de motores flex, diz Anfavea" [Brazil reaches 20 million flex fuel cars] (in Portuguese). UOL Carros. Retrieved 2013-11-17.
  30. Leonardo Andrade (2013-10-08). "Honda comemora 3 milhões de motos flex produzidas com edição especial FlexOne" [Honda commemorates 3 million flexible-fuel motorcycles produced with FlexOne special edition] (in Portuguese). Notícias Automotivas. Retrieved 2013-11-17.
  31. Alfred Szwarc. "Abstract: Use of Bio-fuels in Brazil" (PDF). United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
  32. Luiz A. Horta Nogueira (2004-03-22). "Perspectivas de un Programa de Biocombustibles en América Central: Proyecto Uso Sustentable de Hidrocarburos" (PDF) (in Spanish). Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL). Retrieved 2008-05-09.
  33. ANFAVEA. "Anúario da Industria Automobilistica Brasileira 2012: Tabela 2.3 Produção por combustível - 1957/2012" (in Portuguese). ANFAVEA - Associação Nacional dos Fabricantes de Veículos Automotores (Brasil). Retrieved 2013-11-17. pp. 60-61.
  34. "Motor Vehicle Census, Australia, 31 Jan 2011". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2011-07-28. Retrieved 2011-08-23.
  35. Davis; et al. (2011). "op. cit": 3–8 and 3–9. See Tables 3.4 and 3.5
  36. 1 2 International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers(OICA). "2014 Production Statistics". OICA. Retrieved 2015-04-25.
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