New registrations of cars

    World market consolidating

    In 2022, the global passenger car market, which is in the midst of transformation, recorded a sideways movement. The chip shortage prevented a better result.

    In 2022, the global passenger car market, which is in the midst of transformation, recorded a sideways movement. The chip shortage prevented a better result.

    After growing by 5 percent to 71.4 million passenger cars in 2021, there was only minimal growth to 71.7 million passenger cars in 2022.  This means that the global market is still around 12 million units below the pre-crisis volume of 2018. Developments last year were mixed in the individual regions. The following section looks at the auto year in the three most important markets of Europe, the USA and China, which together account for more than two thirds of global new passenger car registrations.

    Europe declines again

    After the difficult years 2020 and 2021 for the automotive industry, the past year 2022 was again characterized by numerous turbulences and challenges. The year got off to a promising start in the European passenger car market (EU, EFTA & UK). Hopes about easing restrictions that had been implemented due to COVID-19 were omnipresent. Despite the still prevailing shortage of raw materials and intermediate products - especially semiconductors - the general supply situation improved noticeably, so that confidence in being able to generate catch-up effects in the near future was palpable.

    However, the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine quickly dashed hopes of an accelerated recovery in European car sales. As a result of the war, supply chains again came under considerable pressure, prices for raw materials and energy skyrocketed, and industrial production, including in the automotive sector, was significantly slowed. Targeted measures to secure energy supplies and diversify supply chains stabilized value added over the course of the year. As the situation gradually improved, a catch-up effect materialized - at least in part.

    Despite the upward trend in the second half of the year, the European passenger car market suffered an overall decline of new registrations in 2022. Since the last pre-crisis year of 2019, sales have been in decline for the third year in succession. In 2022 11.3 million passenger cars were sold, a reduction of 4 percent compared to the previous year. In the first half of the year, which was marked by the start of the war in Ukraine, almost 14 percent fewer vehicles were sold to customers than in the already weak comparable period of the previous year.

    Although growth of just under 8 percent was achieved in the second half of the year, this increase did not fully compensate for the significant setback in the first half. The five largest individual markets developed negatively for the most part. Only the German market recorded a slight increase (+1 percent) after a weak prior year. 

    France, Great Britain, Italy, Spain and Eastern Europe

    The United Kingdom was able to position itself as the second-largest passenger car market in Europe in 2022, moving up on the previous year. Nevertheless, 1.6 million new registrations meant a drop of a good 33,000 units equivalent to a 2 percent decrease. The supply crisis coupled with logistics difficulties and numerous domestic political disagreements limited the market and unsettled consumers.

    The French market slumped more sharply (-8 percent). With 1.5 million new vehicles sold, it is now only the third largest single European market. Almost 130,000 fewer units were registered in France than in the previous year. The chip shortage, poor availability of new vehicles and the consequences of the Ukraine war had an above-average impact on the French passenger car market.

    After the Italian market recorded the highest growth of the largest individual markets in 2021, there was a setback in the past year. Italian dealers sold just over 1.3 million passenger cars (-10 percent), 140,000 fewer than a year earlier. The impact of the war in Ukraine on the European market was clearly felt in Italy. Combined with supply bottlenecks that had already had a negative impact, there was a significant slump in passenger car sales (-23 percent in the first half of 2022), which could not be offset even by solid growth rates in the further course of the year.

    The Spanish passenger car market recorded 813,400 new registrations. This was a good 5 percent fewer than in the previous year. Accordingly, it was not possible to match the level of the pre-crisis years 2018 and 2019 in 2022 either. Sales remained 35 percent below the pre-crisis level. Last year, the market had to contend in particular with logistics difficulties at the ports, meaning that at times significantly fewer vehicles could be made available to dealers for sale. In addition, the loss of purchasing power due to high inflation, caused among other things by the war in Ukraine, weighed particularly heavily on the Spanish.

    The countries of Eastern Europe performed in line with Europe as a whole in the past year. New registrations there also fell by an average of 4 percent. Poland remains by far the largest single market in the Eastern European countries. In Germany's eastern neighbor, around 419,700 new passenger cars were registered - 6 percent fewer than in the previous year. In the Czech Republic, too, sales now slipped again after slight growth in 2021. In 2022, the Czech passenger car market reached a volume of 192,100 units and contracted by 7 percent.

    Sales by German OEMs were not unaffected by the negative overall trend. With sales down 5 percent, they even had to cope with a slightly below-average performance. Over the course of the year, a good 5.2 million passenger cars of German Group brands were registered. Accordingly, the market share of German manufacturers in the European market fell to 46.3 percent (previous year: 46.6 percent).


    China above pre-crisis level

    The Chinese passenger car market continued to experience a turbulent development in 2022. With 23.2 million vehicles sold (wholesale), sales increased by 10 percent year-on-year in the process. Growth momentum in China increased again compared to the previous year and was higher than at any time since 2016. As in the previous year, China was thus a central pillar of the global market. Unlike in most Western countries, Chinese passenger car sales are again well above the pre-Corona level of 2019, when 21.1 million passenger cars were sold. The high growth momentum also resulted in China's global market share rising to 32 percent in 2022. 

    The development throughout the year was very uneven: While automotive sales expanded in the first and especially also in the third quarter of 2022 (Q1: +9 percent; Q3: +37 percent), the market had to record a slight decline in the second quarter and barely reached the previous year's level in the fourth quarter (Q2: -1 percent; Q4: ±0 percent). The reasons for this were complex. One important factor was the recent corona lockdowns, among others in the Shanghai metropolitan region, which led to a slump in the passenger car market in April in particular (Apr: -43 percent). Although to a much lesser extent, passenger car business was also significantly impacted in March and May. In the course of the second quarter, it became clear at the political level that the Chinese government sees the automotive industry as a key driver of economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic in its economic policy orientation. This was underlined by demand-supporting measures. 

    From July 2022 to the end of the year, a halved value-added tax (5 percent instead of 10 percent) applied to passenger cars with an engine capacity of less than 2 liters and a maximum sales price of 300,000 yuan (equivalent to ~€40,000). This tax reduction was intended to support sales of vehicles with internal combustion engines; cars with electric motors are currently exempt from this tax anyway. As a result, passenger car sales boomed in the third quarter. A total of 6.6 million new cars were sold in the period from July to September, more than ever before in a third quarter in China. By the end of the year, sales had fallen slightly year-on-year. It should be noted that the fourth quarter of 2021 was already characterized by very high market volumes. In addition, the Corona contagion wave in the wake of the end of China's no-covid strategy caused uncertainty among consumers and thus had a dampening effect on passenger car sales at the end of the year.

    The German manufacturers were also able to increase their sales last year. At 4.4 million passenger cars, 3 percent more passenger cars from German manufacturers were sold in China in 2022 than in the previous year. However, market share fell to 19.1 percent, the lowest level since 2016.

    In terms of the segment structure, the overall picture 2021 was confirmed in 2022. The SUV segment was once again at the top of the customer's list. Their sales grew by 11 percent to 11.2 million units. Never before have more SUVs been sold in China than last year. They accounted for 48 percent of the total Chinese automotive market. The basic car segment was equally dynamic, growing to a total of 11.1 million units (+11 percent). The mini-van segment, on the other hand, fell below the 1.0 million vehicle threshold to 937,000 mini-vans (-11 percent).

    China also remains an important location for automotive production. In 2022, 23.5 million passenger cars were manufactured in the Middle Kingdom, 12 percent more than in 2021. Only in 2016 and 2017 were more passenger cars manufactured in China than last year (23.8 million and 24.3 million passenger cars respectively at the time). German manufacturers' plants produced 4.5 million passenger cars (+5 percent).

    US market in reverse gear

    U.S. light vehicle sales fell nearly 8 percent to 13.8 million units in 2022. This means that the sales volumes of the pre-COVID era remain a long way off. Business was particularly weak in the first half of the year, while sales picked up slightly in the second half (H1: -18 percent; H2: +5 percent). The main influencing factor here was the shortage of semiconductors and the resulting reduced supply. From the middle of the year, the market slowly began to recover slightly.

    In addition to an improved supply situation, the reverse development of supply in the previous year also affected the rates of change, when the first half of the year was characterized by solid sales figures and the semiconductor shortage made itself clearly felt in the second half.

    The trend toward larger vehicles is also unbroken. While sales of basic cars fell by 14 percent in 2022, the decline in light trucks was only 6 percent. Meanwhile, the light truck share of sales is 79.1 percent. The largest single segment within light trucks and the biggest winner in recent years has been CUVs (cross-utility vehicles/crossovers). CUV sales suffered a comparatively small decline in 2022, falling by 7 percent to around 6.2 million units. This gave them a market share of just under 45 percent and once again made them the largest single segment in the US market. SUVs, which have larger exterior dimensions and off-road characteristics than CUVs, achieved a market share of just over 10 percent. Their sales fell by 4 percent to just under 1.4 million units. Sales of pickup trucks reached a volume of 2.7 million. vehicles (-3 percent) and a market share of 19 percent. Finally, 0.6 million vans were sold in the USA as the last subsegment among light trucks (-11 percent; market share: 4 percent).

    The German manufacturers were again able to maintain their market position in the US last year. They sold a good 1.3 million light vehicles (-6 percent). In the growing light truck segment, their sales of 913,000 vehicles (-1 percent) were almost on a par with the previous year. In the basic car segment, sales fell significantly by 16 percent to 350,000 units. The market share of German Group brands in the overall light vehicle market rose to 9.2 percent in 2022 (2021: 8.9 percent). 

    On the production side, the year was more encouraging for the United States, with a total of 9.7 million light vehicles coming off the production lines in 2022 - 9 percent more than in the previous year. This included almost 1.7 million basic cars (+9 percent). Light truck production reached a volume of 8.0 million units (+9 percent).

    Economic Intelligence

    Jan Cholewa

    Automotive economy, automotive forecasts, statistics and analysis abroad

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