Connect with us

Automotive

How U.S. Vehicle Production Has Shifted Over 45 Years

Published

on

vehicle production trends in the U.S. market

How U.S. Vehicle Production Has Shifted Over 45 Years

Over the last few decades, vehicle production in the U.S. has dramatically shifted, with SUVs emerging as the indisputable frontrunners.

Once perceived as vehicles solely for off-road capabilities and adventuring (hence the name sport utility vehicle), SUVs soon became a useful transportation alternative for large families. Shortly after, they became the top-selling models for many automakers.

The graphic above uses data on the annual production shares of different vehicle types from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to explore the factors that have led to the surging popularity of SUVs.

U.S. Vehicle Production: The Rise of SUVs

As SUV production has evolved, they’ve started to blur the line between car and truck classes. The EPA classifies most two-wheel drive SUVs under 6,000 lbs as cars (car SUVs), while those with four-wheel drive or above 6,000 lbs are trucks (truck SUVs).

In the American market, sedans and wagons dominated production from before the 1970s and well into the 1990s. Combined with smaller car SUVs, cars accounted for more than half of U.S. vehicle production well into the 2010s.

But the rapid rise of heavier truck SUVs has shifted the landscape. Sedans and wagons dipped below 50% of market production for the first time in 2004. And by 2017, trucks (including truck SUVs, pickups, and minivans) have been the ones accounting for over half of new vehicle production.

U.S. Production Share (%)1975198019851990199520002005201020152020
Sedan/Wagon81%84%75%70%62%55%51%55%47%31%
Car SUV0%0%1%1%1%4%5%8%10%13%
Truck SUV2%2%4%5%11%15%21%21%28%39%
Pickup13%13%14%15%15%16%14%11%11%14%
Minivan/Van4%2%6%10%11%10%9%5%4%3%

The growth of SUVs can be partially linked to all-wheel drive systems that gained momentum in the 1980s, with the Audi Quattro winning three rallies in its rookie season of 1981.

During that same time, new SUV models started to gain popularity, like the 1984 Jeep Cherokee—considered the first modern SUV with four doors—and Land Rover’s Range Rover, which entered the North American market in 1987.

By melding the benefits of space, performance, and comfort into one vehicle, SUVs began competing with both vans and station wagons as the quintessential family car. In the 90s, affordable midsize models like the Ford Explorer, Subaru Legacy Outback, and Toyota RAV4 paved the way for more middle-class families to enter the SUV market.

However, SUV production has been prone to fluctuations. Demand first started dropping as gas prices rose in the lead-up to the 2008 recession, which further strained finances and caused families to opt for cheaper non-SUV models. This significantly hurt the American “Big Three” automotive producers (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) at the time, for which trucks and SUVs had become the primary market.

SUV Fuel Efficiency and Millennials

Driven by improvements in fuel efficiency and societal trends, SUV demand roared back over the last 10 years.

Automakers have implemented fuel-saving technologies, such as direct injection and turbocharging, and have used more lightweight materials in construction to further boost engine efficiency.

While fuel efficiency has improved across all types of vehicles over the last four decades, sedans and wagons climbed far earlier in miles per gallon (MPG) scores, while SUVs have only more recently started catching up.

fuel efficiency (MPG) production trends in the U.S. market

Since 2000, fuel efficiency for sedans and wagons improved by around 38%, while car SUVs saw a jump of 70% over the same time period, with both sitting at just over 30 MPG for 2021 models. Even larger truck SUVs, seen as the epitome of gas-guzzling vehicles, have become as efficient (in MPG terms) as sedans were in the 2000s.

Another factor influencing the market is the surprising entry of millennials, who now represent the majority of the population in the United States. Just a few years ago, automakers were fretting over millennials being a childless, car-less, city-dwelling group who cared little about buying cars or homes.

Fast forward to today—as millennials have aged and their wallets have gotten a little heavier, more of them are buying SUVs to drive to their suburban homes or just to fit their dogs.

SUVs are also benefiting from the shift to electric vehicles. In 2022, SUVs represented 46% of global car sales, and electric SUVs accounted for over half of global electric car sales.

Click for Comments

Markets

Mapped: Where Tesla and BYD Make Their Cars

We map the locations of Tesla and BYD’s present and future EV factories, along with their estimated maximum output.

Published

on

Mapped: Where Tesla and BYD Make Their Cars

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

In 2023, Tesla and BYD were the world’s two largest electric vehicle (EV) companies by a large margin, holding 19.9% and 17.1% market shares respectively.

With no other company able to match their scale, these two automakers have found themselves locked in a competition for the global EV crown. In Q4 2023, BYD outsold Tesla for the first time ever by 41,000 vehicles (526,000 vs 485,000). In Q1 2024, however, their positions were switched after Tesla outsold BYD by 87,000 vehicles (387,000 vs 300,000).

To gain insight into this rivalry, we’ve visualized the locations of both companies’ present and future EV factories, along with their estimated maximum annual output. Figures come from a variety of sources, and represent the latest information pertaining to planned production facilities (as of April 2024).

Tesla’s EV Factories

Starting with Tesla, this graphic highlights the locations of their four operational factories. Gigafactory Shanghai is the largest in terms of production output, at 750,000 vehicles per year.

Note that Gigafactory Nevada is not on this list because it produces battery cells, rather than finished vehicles.

CompanyLocationMax Annual OutputEst. Completion
Tesla🇺🇸 Fremont, CA650,000--
Tesla🇺🇸 Austin, TX250,000--
Tesla🇩🇪 Berlin, Germany250,000--
Tesla🇨🇳 Shanghai, China750,000--
Tesla🇲🇽 Monterrey, MexicoTBD2026

Tesla’s China factory is unique in that it’s fully owned by Tesla itself, rather than a joint venture with a local company.

Looking to the future, Tesla’s next factory will be Gigafactory Mexico, which was announced (with few details) in March 2023. According to reporting by Electrek, the Mexican government is eager for the factory to begin construction, despite CEO Elon Musk voicing concerns about today’s high-interest rate environment.

BYD’s EV Factories

Although EV demand is not growing as quickly as it was in previous years, BYD is putting the pedal to the floor when it comes to global expansion. The company has announced factories in various regions including Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, all to be completed within this decade.

CompanyLocationMax Annual OutputEst. Completion
BYD🇨🇳 China (various cities)3,000,000+--
BYD🇹🇭 Raong, Thailand150,0002024
BYD🇧🇷 Camaçari, Brazil150,0002025
BYD🇭🇺 Szeged, HungaryTBD2027
BYD🇮🇩 Indonesia (city unknown)150,000TBD
BYD🇲🇽 Mexico (city unknown)TBDTBD

BYD produced over 3 million electric vehicles in 2023 (BEV, PHEV, and HEV). Given that it had no international factories running during that year, we assume that BYD has the capacity to produce at least 3 million vehicles in China.

Government Subsidies Help Fuel Expansion

If you’re wondering how BYD is funding these ambitious plans, consider this: a recent study by Germany’s Kiel Institute determined that BYD has received over $3.7 billion in subsidies from the Chinese government.

For perspective, this online subsidy tracker reports that Tesla has received $2.8 billion in government subsidies. A large share of this amount ($1.6 billion) was awarded by the state of Nevada, which is where Tesla’s first gigafactory is located.

Continue Reading
Visualizing Asia's Water Dilemma

Subscribe

Popular