Time to buy a car?

If auto sales are any indication, people do think they are better off now than four years ago, when most people were afraid to commit to a payment book. The Truth About Cars posts that August Sales: Up 20 Percent. Detroit Better Than Expected. Toyota-Shi And Wolfsburg MUCH Better.

When everything was tabulated, August sales had jumped 20 percent, which was the high end of expectations. The seasonally adjusted sales rate (SAAR) for August came in at 14.53 million, the highest SAAR [since] cash-for-clunkers in August 2009.

Coincidentally, my wife wants another car. We share the little car I bought for her – which is fine because between the light rail and my bike, I don’t drive much at all. But sometimes she stays with family in PA while I am working in MD, so the question is always: Do I leave the car and take the six hour bus ride, or drive there in only three hours?

She always urges me to drive, but then when she’s stuck without a car, she hates it. The car fan part of me wants a Volt or Prius v; the more rational part thinks a used pickup truck would serve us well. The idealistic part of me, however, would be more at home in Guangzhou:

A Chinese City Moves to Limit New Cars

The municipal government of Guangzhou, a sprawling metropolis that is one of China’s biggest auto manufacturing centers, introduced license plate auctions and lotteries last week that will roughly halve the number of new cars on the streets.

The crackdown by China’s third-largest city is the most restrictive in a series of moves by big Chinese cities that are putting quality-of-life issues ahead of short-term economic growth, something the central government has struggled to do on a national scale.

The measures have the potential to help clean up China’s notoriously dirty air and water, reduce long-term health care costs and improve the long-term quality of Chinese growth.

“There’s a recognition finally that growth at all costs is not sustainable,” said Ben Simpfendorfer, the managing director of Silk Road Associates, a Hong Kong consulting firm.

Ma Jun, the director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, an environmental group in Beijing, said that local officials had become more interested in the environment in the last year after large street demonstrations against polluting factories in cities like Dalian, Shifang and Qidong. In each case, local officials agreed to halt construction of the projects or close them after becoming the targets of local and national ridicule.

China can get away with moves like this because the auto companies are government-owned. More or less the opposite is true in the US.

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