US consumers are continuing their trend toward purchasing more efficient vehicles. The percentage of cars sold is increasing instead of light trucks and SUVs (chart 2):
US auto makers also seem to be gaining ground in relation to foreign auto makers (chart 3). As I mentioned a few months ago, there are firm reports that US consumers perceive there to have been large quality gains from US auto makers.
The US is not alone in having increased auto sales. Chinese consumers have been purchasing more vehicles than US consumers on a monthly basis since September 2009 (chart 4).
The installed base of existing vehicles in the US means that the US still consumes more than twice the amount of oil as China (chart 5). If the Chinese economy sustains an annual compound growth rate of 8% in vehicles sales then it will be 12 years from now in 2021 that China will consume roughly the same amount of oil as the US does today. To put the US and Chinese numbers in perspective, global consumption of oil is currently around 85 million barrels per day.