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‘With an exploding population we're soon going to run out of cars’

Mike Rutherford thinks the car industry is not building nearly enough new cars for the motorists of this big, brave, bloated new world

Opinion - traffic

Do you ever get the feeling that Britain’s transport corridors are becoming increasingly and unbearably crowded? That travelling from A to B is getting harder? All this might have something to do with the fact that they are, and it is.

Britain’s population has boomed since the 1970s. Put to one side quirky little lands such as Monaco and Gibraltar, and it’s clear that Europe has fewer places more densely populated than Blighty. Net migration into the UK is growing at a rate of 500,000-plus annually – suggesting that GB will soon be home to 70 million folk. This, in part, explains why car parking spaces are so hard to find here.

As for the world population – in recent days it’s gone through the eight billion mark. So that’s circa 8,000 million people requiring various modes of private and/or public transport.

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They/we (after all, we’re all in this together) need untold millions of public buses, trains, boats and planes, plus billions of personal bikes and cars, right? Trouble is, the global automotive industry has created a major problem for itself. Put simply, it’s not building nearly enough new cars for the motorists of this big, brave, bloated new world. Manufacturers were repeatedly warned that the global population would reach eight billion by 2022 (just as it knows the number will rise to almost 10 billion by 2050).

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Additionally, the industry has long been aware that in Asia, for example (home to around 60 per cent of the global population), countless workers are on the rise socially and financially and – surprise, surprise – want and can afford brand-new cars. It’s only reasonable to expect them to follow the example set by car-buying European and North American customers over the last half-century or more.  

So how many cars (not to be confused with LCVs, buses, etc) did the global auto industry build last year for that eight billion-strong population? A measly 57 million. That’s less than 10 million for each of the world’s seven continents. And that’s woefully inadequate.

According to just-published figures from in-the-know Warrantywise, Honda, Toyota, Suzuki, Kia and Hyundai are the top five brands for reliability. But building the most reliable cars is the first step. The second is to produce more of them. Flexible international factories in all regions of the world would mean local jobs and much-reduced delivery schedules and environmental harm. So with all this in mind, it’s crazy that Australia, for instance, is no longer a car-producing nation. And crazier still that Africa – the second most populated continent on the planet – isn’t more involved in the global car business.

Since the economic miracle and car-producing phenomenon that is South Korea is genuinely running out of people and space to build the additional factories it needs on home turf and elsewhere, isn’t it about time that it and North Korea declared peace, kissed, made up and opened the ‘Bridge of No Return’ that cruelly divides them? Forget about those South and North labels. Think instead about one Korea, which has the potential to become the world’s greatest car-producing nation. Yes, even greater than Japan.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section...

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Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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