How Many Cars are There in China?

With both production and sales exceeding 13 million units, China surpassed the US as the largest auto manufacturing and consuming country in the world last year. However, in terms of the total number of registered vehicles on the road, China still falls far behind the US, which indicates a strong long-term bullish trend for the global auto industry.

According to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, the number of registered vehicles (including cars, vans, buses, and trucks) in the U.S. has been growing slowly but steadily from 189 million in 1990 to 247 million in 2007. By comparison, according to China’s State Statistical Bureau, the country had merely 5.54 million vehicles on the road in 1990, but the number exploded to 62 million last year (including 26.05 million privately-owned sedans), and will exceed 70 million this year.

When will China have as many vehicles on the road as the current U.S.? China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology recently estimates that there will be over 200 million registered vehicles in the country in 2020. So we think it will take at least a decade.

beijing traffic

(Night Traffic in Beijing)

Considering the rocket speed at which China’s auto market has been growing, we have to say it did a pretty good job in building up infrastructure–in spite of the epic traffic jam appearing on the Beijing-Tibet highway last month, regarded by many to be the worst the world has ever seen.

In 1999, China had only 6258 km of highway; now it has 65,000 km (and 3.7 million km of paved public roads). In three years, it will have the most extensive highway system in the world, passing the US, which had 75,000 km of highway and 4 million paved roads in 2006.

Update on 8 October 2010: The Chinese Ministry of Public Security discloses today that there are 199 million registered motor vehicles in the country, including 85 million automobiles. The number of legal drivers of motor vehicles reached 205 million, including 144 million automobile drivers.

For update on China’s auto fleet on November 28, 2014, please visit here.