European passenger car market loses one quarter in 2020

    Berlin, January 18, 2021

    China has only single-figure loss – US, Brazil, Russia and India all show double-digit falls – Gradual recovery expected this year

    China has only single-figure loss – US, Brazil, Russia and India all show double-digit falls – Gradual recovery expected this year

    The corona crisis hugely impacted the international passenger car markets in 2020. Sales slumped in nearly every country in the world – in some cases drastically. Out of the three large sales regions, Europe (EU-27, EFTA and UK) suffered the largest losses of around one quarter. Sales in the US showed a double-digit fall. The Chinese market recovered relatively swiftly, but over the year as a whole it was still far below the previous year’s result. In 2021 the international markets may be expected to grow across the board – but will not return the pre-corona level overall.

    In Europe, nearly 12.0 million passenger cars were newly registered in 2020, which was 3.8 million, or almost one quarter (-24 percent), less than in the previous year. The five largest markets all recorded double-digit falls. In Germany new car registrations lost nearly one fifth (-19 percent). Sales in France were down by one quarter (-25 percent). New registrations lost almost one third in Italy (-28 percent), the United Kingdom (-29 percent) and Spain (-32 percent). All the countries in the European market finished the year 2020 with a negative result. In recent months a slight recovery could be made out but December car sales in Europe, totaling 1.2 million units, still showed a year-on-year fall of 4 percent.

    In the US, the light vehicle market (passenger cars and light trucks) finished 2020 with nearly 14.5 million vehicles sold (-15 percent). This meant that for the first time since 2012, the US market did not exceed the 15-million mark. Sales of passenger cars decreased by 28 percent, while the light truck segment, which now accounts for 76 percent of the light vehicle market, lost 10 percent. Last month 1.6 million light vehicles were sold (+6 percent).

    China has largely managed to leave the corona pandemic and its serious consequences for vehicle behind it. Rapid recovery reduced the shrinkage in 2020 to 6 percent (19.8 million units). In December 2.3 Mio. vehicles were supplied to Chinese customers. That equates to growth of 7 percent compared with 2019, and was the eighth consecutive monthly rise.

    In 2020 the Japanese new car market totaled 3.8 million passenger cars, i.e. 11 percent below the previous year’s result. So sales failed to reach the 4-million mark for the first time since 2011. December sales reached 315,200 units, which was 11 percent more than in the same month in 2019.

    Russia’s light vehicle sales fell by 9 percent last year, to 1.6 million units.

    The Indian passenger car market recorded a marked fall in 2020. In the second half-year it did show some strong growth, but that could not compensate for the losses during the months of the lockdown. With a total of 2.4 million new vehicles (-18 percent), sales fell to their lowest level for 10 years. However, demand in December was 14 percent up on the previous year (253,000 units).

    In Brazil, the light vehicle market contracted significantly over 2020 as a whole. Sales of new vehicles fell by nearly 27 percent to 2.0 million units. This brought the recovery seen in the last three years to an abrupt halt. The fall in the December figures came to 8 percent (233,000 units).

    It may be assumed that in the new year the markets will begin to show gradual improvement. However, this will not make up completely for the losses sustained in 2020. The higher growth rates expected during the coming months should not be given too much importance, given the extremely low sales figures during the lockdown in the spring of 2020. It will probably be more of a “technical upturn.” Vehicle sales on all the markets except China will make slow progress toward pre-crisis levels. For Europe, growth of 12 percent to 13.4 million new vehicles is expected in 2021. US sales may be expected to increase by 9 percent (15.8 million units) in 2021. The Chinese passenger car market will come to 21.4 million units (+8 percent), thus exceeding its pre-corona level. The global car market could therefore follow last year’s collapse of 15 percent with growth of 9 percent this year and reach 73.8 million units. But even this volume would still be a long way below the pre-corona level.

      December 2020 Jan. - Dec. 2020
      Units Change
    20/19 in %
    Units Change
    20/19 in %
    Europe (EU27 & EFTA & UK) 1) 1,214,600 -3.7 11,960,800 -24.3
    European Union (EU27)* 1) 1,031,100 -3.3 9,942,500 -23.7
    Western Europe (EU14+EFTA+UK) 1) 1,093,400 -3.6 10,803,800 -24.5
    New EU Countries (EU13)* 1) 121,200 -5.1 1,157,000 -23.0
    USA** 2) 1,605,500 6.2 14,461,900 -14.7
    China 3) 2,328,300 7.4 19,794,300 -6.1
    Japan 4) 315,200 10.9 3,810,000 -11.4
    Russia** 5) - - 1,598,800 -9.1
    India6) 253,000 13.6 2,421,200 -18,3
    Brazil** 7) 233,000 -7.6 1,954,800 -26.7


    Source: 1) ACEA, 2) Wards Intelligence, 3) CAAM, 4) JAMA, 5) SIAM, 6) ANFAVEA

    *without Malta

    **Light Vehicles

    Source: 1) ACEA  2) Wards Intelligence  3) CAAM  4) JAMA  5) SIAM  6) ANFAVEA

    * without Malta

    ** Light Vehicles