Roger Carr sent me this video that makes for quite compelling viewing. It graphically illustrates the changing status of various countries in terms of their total motor vehicle output. I do have a few minor quibbles with it, though.
I’m not quite sure of the creator’s methodology. First off, he calls it “Top Ten Car Producing Countries” but he includes all motor vehicles including trucks of all sizes, buses, etc. So it’s really all motor vehicles, which tend to really inflate China’s numbers given the large amounts of vehicles in classes outside the traditional car market. Also, it doesn’t actually ever show the correct complete number for any given year. It appears to start counting again from some predetermined place, but it never finishes the total for the year. A key example is 2009, when total US motor vehicle production collapsed to 5.7 million. You’d never know that from the video, as the counter is working downwards for 2009, but only gets to 8.5 million, and then keeps going downwards until it hits a trough at 7.7 M in 2010, which is correct for that year. In other words, the correct number for any given year may never be achieved by the counter, but it certainly gives a clear picture of the trend line and any country’s relative position.
My biggest surprise? Japan’s rise to the #1 position between about 1975 and 1990. I had forgotten that they actually surpassed the US in those years.