Whoa! 1.7 billion cars on the road by 2035

Phil LeBeau


Wrap your head around this. By 2035, the number of vehicles on the road worldwide will double to 1.7 billion. Yes, that's billion with a "B". That's the latest forecast from the International Energy Agency.

In case you're keeping score those 1.7 billion vehicles will double the number of vehicles currently on the road around the world. Not surprisingly most of the growth behind that number will happen in China.

I'm often asked by people if the auto boom in China is really as spectacular as it's been portrayed. Having made three trips there over the last decade I've seen the explosive growth first hand. And yes, as incredible as it sounds, China's auto market is just getting started.

According to the IEA, look at the growth in vehicles per capita:

* 2000: 4 vehicles per 1000 people.

* 2010: 40 per 1000 people.

* 2035: 310 per 1000 people

For comparison, the U.S. Currently has 660 vehicles per 1000 people.

With so many vehicles rolling out worldwide, it raises a swirl of questions. How will countries curtail emissions? What will this increased demand mean for gas prices? Will electric and hybrid cars take off?

The IEA believes internal combustion cars will still dominate the global auto market. Sure, they are likely to be more fuel efficient.  In fact, the IEA predicts the U.S. will mandate 60 mpg by 2035.

But what stands out about the IEA report is the size of the growth in autos in Asia. China gets the most attention, but India will also see explosive growth, going from 14 million cars today to an estimated 160 million cars 23 years from now.

When you see these numbers, it becomes crystal clear why every automaker has made growing in China a top priority. It has already passed the U.S. to become the number one auto market in the world. It won't be long until it dwarfs the U.S.