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Google Maps Cars Conspiracy: Pictures Lead To (False) Rumours Of Economic Meltdown

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A blogger claims to have exposed a vast, global conspiracy to stockpile millions of unsold new cars to keep the economy afloat, using Google Maps.

The article, posted at Zero Hedge, has caused a stir online by publishing photos it claims show ridiculously huge stockpiles of new cars. The car industry stacks these cars that no one wants, the article suggests, and continues to make new ones in order to keep the economy and its own bottom line in the black.

The idea - which plays on and reflects a collective, unspoken fear that the global economy is largely made up of candy floss, dreams and speculative investment money - is undoubtedly attractive in some ways.

It is not true.

But don't let that get in the way of five minutes of conspiracy theory fun. And the aerial pictures, at least, are compelling. Take this one of Sheerness:

google maps

This is the same lot zoomed out:

google

And this one of Swindon:

google

Or this one in Sunderland:

google

Or this one near Royal Portbury Docks in Bristol:

google

Here it is zoomed out:

google

The blogger Vince Lewis writes:

"None of the images on this webpage are of ordinary car parks at shopping malls, football matches etc. Trust me, they are just mountains and mountains of brand spanking new unsold cars…

The car industry cannot stop making new cars because they would have to close their factories and lay off tens of thousands of employees. This would further add to the recession."

Alas, as we mentioned, these images are imposing, but are not evidence of a hidden economic crisis -- at least, not another one to place alongside what's happening with housing, fuel, energy, banking, clothing retail and agriculture.

Regarding the Zero Hedge article itself, it is easy to note that most of the pictures are old, either from press agencies or Google Maps. And they are also not unusual or inexplicable: car companies with centralised processing or shipment facilities often have thousands of cars in one place at any one time - but they also regularly shift that stock.

As Jalopnik points out in its debunking article, new cars are still being sold at pretty fast rates - new cars last longer today than a few decades ago, but the industry continues to make and sell cars. In the EU new car sales rose 4.6% in April compared to a year ago.

Anyway, it's not like a massive industry would make millions too many products and then just bury them in the desert to pretend it never happened, right?

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