China's Car Industry Surpasses U.S.
Traffic in Shanghai. Photo by SmokingPermitted.

Traffic in Shanghai. Photo by SmokingPermitted.

For the first time ever, there have been more cars sold in China than the United States. (This news comes at the same time as Detroit’s General Motors announced it would cut another 10,000 workers.)

From the Associated Press:

SHANGHAI (AP) — China’s monthly vehicle sales surpassed those in the United States for the first time in January, moving this country closer to becoming the world’s biggest auto market, data released Tuesday showed.

But China’s ascent in the global auto market has been hastened by the plunge in U.S. auto sales, which tumbled 37 percent in January to a 26-year low of 656,976 units.

Chinese vehicle sales also have cooled, but hardly as dramatically. In January, 735,000 vehicles were sold, down 14.4 percent from a monthly record 860,000 last January, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said.

China’s rise to the top of the industry has been boosted by a multi-billion dollar economic stimulus package, which includes promises to promote cleaner, more energy-efficient cars.

The government will spend 5 billion yuan (about $730 million) on subsidies to farmers to replace high-emission vehicles, three-wheelers or outdated trucks, and another 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) to automakers to upgrade their technology and develop alternative energy vehicles.

Moving forward, China will have to balance its economic growth with a stronger commitment to protecting the environment. As motorization rates rise, the government will have to take action to curb fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. But to what extent will authorities be involved in the regulatory process? And what role will the public play in developing sustainable transport initiatives?

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