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Drop in U.S. Car Ownership Surprises Analysts

Between high gas prices, the recession and widespread improvements in public transit systems, Americans drove four million fewer cars in 2009.
January 5, 2010, 1pm PST | Michael Dudley
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It appears that a "saturation point" has been reached in car ownership, according to some analysts:

"Americans' infatuation with their cars has endured through booms and busts, but last year something rare happened in the United States: The number of automobiles actually fell. The size of the U.S. car fleet dropped by a hefty four million vehicles to 246 million, the only large decline since the U.S. Department of Transportation began modern recordkeeping in 1960. Americans bought only 10 million cars – and sent 14 million to the scrapyard. And the overall drop in car ownership has prompted speculation that the long American love affair with the car is fading. Analysts cite such diverse factors as high gas prices, the expansion of many municipal transit systems, and the popularity of networking websites among teenagers replacing cars as a way of socializing."

There is also evidence that because young people rely more on electronic socializing, they no longer see car ownership as a necessary 'rite of passage', which may lead to even greater drops in coming years.

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Published on Tuesday, January 5, 2010 in The Globe and Mail
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