The world passed the 1 billion vehicles--cars, light and heavy trucks, buses-- mark probably some time in 2010, according to a great article at Talkingpointsmemo.com. The number does not include off-road or construction vehicles.
Other key data are that the world had 250 million vehicles in 1970 and 500 million in 1986. China is now the largest car market in the world with approximately 15 to 17 million sales and surpassed the USA in 2010. The Chinese will likely buy 40 million vehicles per year within 5 years. The US car market prior to the near depression in 2008 to 2009 was 16 million but has been struggling to return to a 12 million volume.
The USA has 3 vehicles for every 4 people; China one vehicle for every 16 people; and India one vehicle for every 53 people. The world will soon have 7 billion people and is adding vehicles at the rate of close to 30 million per year.
When China reaches the number of vehicles per population that the USA has, China will have by itself 1 billion vehicles on the road.
These extraordinary numbers explain why world oil prices have increased from $20 per barrel to consistently over $100 per barrel in the last 10 years.
The demand for oil is exploding and world production cannot keep pace, in the absence of a global recession or depression (see the prior posting about Congresswoman Bachmann's promise to bring back cheap gasoline).
Burning increasing amounts of oil in transportation is also a major reason that the global amounts of heat trapping pollution emitted are climbing every year and soon will pass the 400 ppm concentration level.
Unless the USA gets off foreign oil our national security, our environmental security, and our economic security will be damaged, endangered, destroyed. Absent a global economic contraction, gasoline will likely soon reach $5 or $6 per gallon in the USA. Our economy cannot withstand such oil pricing.
We must move to electricity, natural gas, biofuels--all of which are cheaper and cleaner than oil for transportation. This should be a national and state imperative. We laready are in fact out of time.