Over 200 times more passenger cars than in 1927

© Hollandse Hoogte
In almost a century, the Dutch passenger car fleet has grown by a factor exceeding 200: from 41 thousand (1927) to 8.5 million cars (2019). This is due to multiple developments, including population growth, rising incomes and increasing commuter traffic. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on a new analysis.

For this historical timeline, CBS conducted a long time series analysis of the Dutch motor vehicle fleet. After putting together all available data sources, additional estimates were performed to make up for the missing data. Time series breaks which developed over time due to changes in e.g. sources, definitions, composition of vehicle categories as well as reference year shifts have been mended.

Rapid fleet expansion in the 1960s

The first motor vehicle statistics were published in 1927, when 41 thousand passenger cars were recorded in the Netherlands. This number had gone up to 98 thousand by 1939. Although growth was interrupted during the Second World War, the 100 thousand threshold was already crossed in 1949. By 1965 there were 1 million cars, rising to 2 million four years later.This year, the motor vehicle fleet includes a total of 8.5 million passenger cars.

Passenger car fleet (x 1,000)
periodeNumber of passenger cars x 1,000
192741.2
192847.7
192955.3
193063.2
193170.6
193277.3
193382.4
193486.6
193588.5
193687.6
193788.7
193890.9
193995.1
194098.2
194116.1
194215.2
194313.5
194412.2
194510.8
194637.1
194754.5
194873.8
194995.0
1950120.4
1951141.9
1952158.3
1953172.9
1954194.1
1955231.3
1956282.2
1957334.9
1958379.8
1959418.5
1960464.0
1961537.4
1962634.2
1963751.1
1964902.6
19651093.9
19661302.0
19671513.6
19681743.0
19692010.1
19701979.4
19712347.9
19722741.7
19732946.2
19742872.2
19753092.2
19763336.4
19773518.0
19783703.0
19793906.0
19804123.0
19814263.0
19824321.0
19834385.0
19844471.0
19854551.0
19864616.0
19874676.0
19884806.0
19894967.0
19905118.0
19915205.0
19925247.0
19935341.0
19945456.0
19955581.0
19965664.0
19975810.0
19985931.0
19996120.0
20006343.2
20016539.0
20026710.6
20036854.9
20046908.9
20056992.0
20067092.3
20077230.2
20087391.9
20097542.3
20107622.4
20117735.5
20127858.7
20137915.6
20147932.3
20157979.1
20168100.9
20178223.0
20188373.2
20198530.6
2020

Sharp rise in commuter traffic

In the post-war period, demand was boosted by the development of commuter traffic. Commuter flows could be derived from census data. A tripling took place in the number of people going to work outside their municipality of residence: from 544 thousand (1947) to 1.1 million (1960) to 1.6 million (1971). The commuting trend arose partly as a result of housing shortages; at the same time, the geographical spread of industrial establishments and a decline in agricultural employment contributed to this rise in commuter traffic. In the late 1960s, as housing shortages were solved in the smaller municipalities while the living environment in larger municipalities deteriorated, more and more people moved away from the city.
Commuter traffic has risen sharply ever since. In 1947, 15 percent of the labour force were working outside their municipality. In 1960, this share was 27 percent and in 1971 it was 34 percent. By 2017, the share of commuters among workers had gone up to 63 percent.

Desire for freedom

The car also enabled people to satisfy their desire for freedom and provided a way to spend increased leisure time. More people took the car to make trips. The first traffic jams were created in the 1950s. Initially these were limited to leisure time: road jams on the weekends and in holiday periods (Easter and Whitsun weekends, for example), and summer holidays. The car was a desirable object, with consumers willing to change their spending pattern accordingly.

Nearly 1 car in every 2 inhabitants

The relative growth in car fleet is as impressive as its absolute growth. Adjusted for the population increase, the fleet rose from 12 passenger cars per one thousand inhabitants in 1950 to 41 per thousand inhabitants in 1960; 153 in 1970 and 300 in 1981. By 2000, vehicle density was already 400 per thousand inhabitants. At the beginning of 2019, the counter stood at 494, nearly 1 car in every 2 inhabitants.

Number of passenger cars per thousand inhabitants
JaarCars per 1,000 inhabitants
19276
19286
19297
19308
19319
193210
193310
193410
193511
193610
193710
193811
193911
194011
19412
19422
19432
19441
19451
19464
19476
19488
194910
195012
195114
195215
195317
195418
195522
195626
195731
195834
195937
196041
196147
196254
196363
196475
196590
1966105
1967121
1968138
1969157
1970153
1971179
1972207
1973220
1974213
1975227
1976243
1977255
1978266
1979279
1980293
1981300
1982303
1983306
1984311
1985315
1986318
1987320
1988327
1989336
1990344
1991347
1992347
1993351
1994356
1995362
1996366
1997373
1998379
1999388
2000400
2001409
2002417
2003423
2004425
2005429
2006434
2007442
2008451
2009458
2010460
2011464
2012470
2013472
2014471
2015472
2016477
2017481
2018487
2019494
2020