Q1/2021: Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW were the best-selling car brands in Germany and the VW Golf the top-selling model.
January to March 2021: New passenger vehicle registrations in Germany contracted by 6.4% following a strong recovery in sales in March 2021. Measures related to the Coronavirus continued to influence the market but also production problems at various manufacturers. Volkswagen remained by far the largest carmaker in Germany thus far in 2021 and gained some market share. Mercedes-Benz maintained its second place despite weak sales while BMW moved ahead of Audi that continued to decline. Sales of electric cars continued to increase sharply despite long delivery periods for many popular models. Volkswagen again dominated the list of the top-selling car models with the Golf still Germany’s favorite car followed by the VW Tiguan and VW Passat.
German New Car Market in 2021 (Q1)
New passenger vehicle registrations in Germany contracted by 6.4% during the first quarter of 2021 to 656,456 cars compared to 701,382 cars in 2020(Q1) and 880,092 in 2019 (Q1).
It was a slow start to the year for the German automotive industry with sales sharply lower in both January and February. Sales increased in March 2021 by 36% largely due to the shock to the market of the first Coronavirus lockdown in March 2020. April and May 2020 were the worst sales months last year and the market is likely to improve in coming months although not necessarily to 2019 levels.
Battery-electric vehicles continued to gain market share in Germany but registrations are hampered by very long waiting lists stretching up to a year for some models.
Best-Selling Car Brands in Germany in 2021 (Q1)
The top-selling car marques in Germany according to passenger vehicle registration data released by the KBA were as follows during the first three months of 2021:
Top-Selling Car Brands in Germany in 2021 (Q1)
Volkswagen easily maintained its traditional position as the largest carmaker in Germany despite slightly weaker sales during the first quarter of 2021. VW, like many other manufacturers, had production problems with a lack of computer chips and certain components but placed itself in a good position to take advantage of the strong government incentives to subsidize electric and electrified cars.
Mercedes-Benz had sales down by more than a tenth but maintained second place in Germany. In contrast, BMW gained market share and moved ahead of Audi. Audi’s dismal sales performance continued in 2021 with sales down by another 15% — of the top brands only Ford performed worse. Audi sales during the first three months of 2021 were only two-thirds of sales in 2019.
Opel sales in Germany increased by 12% — the best performance of the top brands and together with Renault the only top-ten brand with stronger volume sales thus far this year. Opel swapped rank positions with Ford, which was the worst-performing top brand. Skoda maintained its sixth position.
Seat was again eighth but with remarkably stable sales volumes over the first quarters of the previous three years. Seat was one of only three brands to have sold more cars during the first quarter of 2021 than in the first three months of 2019. Only Porsche and Tesla managed the same.
Renault and Hyundai rounded out the top ten in the same rank positions as in 2020.
The most-improved car brands in Germany thus far in 2021 were electric-only brands Smart and Tesla. Although Smart sales increased over 300%, Smart remained unable to really take advantage of the electric-only strategy until new cars arrive, possibly in 2022. Smart sales this year were still only about half of the number of cars sold in the first quarter of 2019 when conventional engines were still available. Polestar joined the listing as a new brand at 34th.
The worst-performing car brands this far in 2021 in Germany were Honda, Mitsubishi, and Jaguar with sales down by around 50%. Ford performed worst of the larger brands with sales this year only around half what was achieved two years ago.
Best-Selling Car Models in Germany in 2021 (Q1)
The ten top-selling car models in Germany during the first quarter of 2021 according to the KBA were:
Top-Ten Models in Germany in 2021 (First Quarter)
The VW Golf maintained its traditional position as Germany’s favorite car but it was certainly not business as usual for the Golf. Golf sales were sharply down on a year ago and only about half of the number sold during the first three months of 2019. Volkswagen, like many other manufacturers, had some production issues with a lack of certain parts, but the Golf furthermore faced strong competition in-house from SUVs (Tiguan, T-Roc) and the ID models — in contrast to the previous Golf, no electric model of the Golf will be produced.
The Tiguan was again the second best-selling car model in Germany and increased sales from a year ago. The Passat similarly kept its third-place but all other top-ten cars in Germany in 2021 were in new rank order positions. The VW T-Toc rounded out the top four for Volkswagen — it improved from tenth a year ago.
The Opel Corsa improved to fifth from ninth, which would have again been its sales position if it was not for the 2,109 electric Corsas sold in Germany thus far this year. The Skoda Octavia improved from eighth while the BMW 3-Series dropped from fifth. The 3-Series and Corsa were the only top-seven brands with volume sales higher thus far in 2021 than in 2019.
The rest of the top-ten are all new entrants. The Mini, which was the second most-popular car with private buyers after the Golf in Germany in 2020, improved from 12th to eighth.
The VW Up, which rarely received much love from German car buyers, entered the list at nine. The Up, rather than the much published ID3 and ID4, was the top-selling electric car model in Germany thus far in 2021 with 45% of VW Ups sold being battery-electric cars.
The Fiat Ducato took tenth — this small van is also very popular as a motorhome in Germany and had been enjoying enormous popularity since the start of the Coronavirus lockdowns, as an alternative to regular vacation homes and hotels. The Audi A6 was eleventh, or tenth for those finding the Ducato not car enough.
Three regulars on the top-ten list in Germany dropped off thus far this year. The Audi A4 slipped from 7th to 17th but more dramatic was the decline of the VW Polo from sixth to 27th and the Ford Focus from 4th to 30th. Both cars suffered even more than the Golf from being neither an SUV nor electric. Although the Polo is due a facelift later this year, a new model is still years away.