"US Department Of Dreaming" Projects Light-Duty Vehicle Sales To 2030

light duty vehicle projection scenario image

US Department of Energy recently issued their annual report on energy (fits with the name, right?): Annual Energy Outlook 2009 with Projections to 2030. As you can see by this excerpted graphic from the Executive Summary of the report (pdf file), insignificant change is anticipated: i.e SUV's continue their prevalence. Note that the graphic is not about fleet composition by 2030; it's about about new-vehicle sales trends. Analysis below the fold.Clearly the "We sell what consumers want" marketing mantra had solidly permeated the US government by the time this projection was charted. My first reaction on seeing it was to go off on a rant about Consumers also want to marry celebrities and live in mega-mansions and pay no taxes.' But we all know the punch line - we're living it large.

An alternative way to envision light duty vehicle sales trends is with some scenario thinking; which means coming up with two or three equally plausible future directions in vehicle sales. Best to do this in response to a list of future "drivers" reasonable people will agree are likely to come into play (examples below). That way government policy makers are more likely to support a law that works well under more than one scenario. Here's a future "driver" no one wants to think about.

Baby Boomers too old to drive photo

How you can tell when a Baby Boomer is too old to drive. Image credit:Flickr, Dancing Fish
Example trends everyone knows about (but hates to consider).
Consider the likelihood of significant impacts, before 2030, of Peak Oil; Carbon Cap & Trade; geopolitical instabilities in oil exporting nations; and of a still shrunken global economy. Could these shift consumer preferences radically? Hold that answer.

Other less visible "future drivers."
Think of sales projections for 2030 that might mesh with these "future drivers":-

  • Measured in today's dollars, US median family income stays flat, or increases only marginally, by 2030.
  • Price of gasoline goes to the $4 to $6/gallon range, in today's dollars.
  • Group commuting relies more on a combination of mass transit and shared vans.
  • Solo commuting relies more on compact. sub-compact, and mini-cars.
  • SUV's and trucks increasingly deploy hybrid technologies, making them much more expensive.
  • Tax deductions for purchase of more efficient vehicles becomes too great an expense for the Federal government to continue.
  • Members of the next generation of Americans entering the new car buying market tends to weigh less and to have an easier time getting in and out of more aerodynamic designs.
  • Baby boomers increasingly have to give up their driving licenses and will require more shuttle and delivery services.
  • Car share service businesses expand their territories to the suburbs and exurbs, allowing recreational users to access trailer capable vehicles when needed.
  • Sidewalks, bike lanes, and trail systems are expanded greatly.

You can probably add to this list.

Help wake the Department of Dreaming . Let's hear your ideas about what vehicle sales will look like by 2030 (in percentages).

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