PERSPECTIVE: Auto production set to soar

Worldwide production of passenger cars and light trucks rose to 76.8 million units in 2011, up 3.2% from 74.4 million in 2010, and the Worldwatch Institute believes that 2013 will see an all-time high of 80 million or more vehicles. It’s...

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Worldwide production of passenger cars and light trucks rose to 76.8 million units in 2011, up 3.2% from 74.4 million in 2010, and the Worldwatch Institute believes that 2013 will see an all-time high of 80 million or more vehicles. It’s no surprise that demand is expected to grow most in emerging economies, particularly China.

That is good news for the suppliers to the automotive sector and the mines that provide the raw materials. Although less metal is used in modern cars than was 50 years ago, the sector still provides a major opportunity for mineral producers.

With new automotive technology, notably hybrid and all-electric vehicles, more opportunities will arise for producers of the exotic and rare elements. Producers and would-be producers of lithium and rare earth elements are some of the electric car’s biggest fans. But we are not there yet.

The Institute’s report notes that production of electric vehicles “remains at barely perceptible levels”. It remains to be seen whether or not countries that have set electric vehicle targets will meet them. As for hybrid vehicles, they represent less than 2% of total vehicle output.

“China,” says the report, “wants to put 5 million plug-in, hybrid-electric and fully electric vehicles on its roads by 2020 – which could account for more than 40% of the global EV fleet that year. An analysis by Deutsche Bank Climate Advisors, however, suggests that production of 1.1 million EVs and a fleet of 3.5 million in China is a more realistic projection.”

Further interesting facts can be found in the report, namely that the top four automobile producers (China, the United States, Japan and Germany) account for more than half of global production.

The full report is available at Worldwatch.org.

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