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Study: People can't imagine life without automobiles

September 25, 2015
A majority of people around the world could not imagine living their lives without a car, according to a study released Sept. 16 at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
The findings by the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), a group that defends the various interests of the car industry, revealed that 57 percent of people globally would find life harder or more challenging without access to four wheels.
OICA concluded that that 78 percent of people in Africa cannot imagine living their lives without a car, compared to 63 percent in the Americas, 56 percent in Europe and 48 percent in Asia. The Paris-based organization surveyed 14,000 people in 18 countries.
"The conclusions are quite clear and positive, with the car seen as an object of desire, providing many important advantages compared to any other transport mode: globally, consumers view the car as comfortable, practical, fast, safe, and future-oriented," Matthias Wissmann, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry and an OICA vice president, said in a statement.
"Also, the industry itself scores extremely high and is largely considered as an industry that can be trusted and is innovative," Wissmann said.
The study concluded that global consumers generally believe that the car industry is "doing its job" when it comes to investing in technologies that reduce carbon emissions and support renewable energy sources.
"There’s been a lot of effort by different companies bringing different technologies" to the emissions problem, Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn — who is also president of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) — told reporters Sept. 16 in Frankfurt.
"We will we do what we can to get results at COP21," he added. COP21 is a United Nations-sponsored conference on climate change that will take place in Paris in December. Reducing long-term carbon emissions from cars and other major infrastructure is one of its goals.
Erik Jonnaert, ACEA’s secretary-general, said that the car industry is currently responsible for a 5 percent reduction in total global emissions, a reduction that he said was ahead of other industries.
The OICA study found that the car industry also largely enjoys a positive reputation despite a spate of highly publicized vehicle recalls involving nearly all major manufacturers.
That’s in large part because today’s cars are safer and more reliable than ever. In the U.S., road fatalities have dropped sharply, while vehicle dependability ratings are at all-time highs.
The car’s reign may still nevertheless be under threat, as a growing number of people live where car ownership is difficult, unnecessary and even dangerous.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban centers — and that number is expected to grow to 66 percent by 2050.
In dense, city areas, congestion often means that owning a car is both inefficient and cost prohibitive, and urban dwellers regularly turn to public transit and car-and-ride-sharing services to get where they need to go.
In cities such as New York and Tokyo, the automobile is often the slowest way to get from one place to another.
Further, the regions where the OICA survey showed car ownership to be most coveted — in Africa, at 78 percent — correspond to places where public transit infrastructure is least developed.
Even as urbanization increases in Africa, inadequate access to mass transit and growing sprawl means that even city dwellers depend on private vehicles. Road fatalities have also sharply increased in the developing world, as more individuals have access to cars.
According to the WHO, car accidents are now the fifth-leading cause of death in developing countries, and vehicle-related air pollution is an increasing threat to human health.
 
Meanwhile, car sales in the U.S. have risen as the economy has rebounded and gas prices have dropped. According to Autodata, analysts project that Americans will buy 17.8 million new vehicles in 2015, and new-car sales in August were the best they’ve been for any month in a decade.
 
Globally, demand for new passenger cars was up 1.4 percent, to 36.1 million, in the first half of this year, with that modest rise driven mainly by consumer demand in China where rapid economic growth has slowed in recent months.
 
 

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