2018 (Full Year) International: Worldwide Car Sales and Global Market Analysis

In 2018, around 86 million cars were sold in the top 54 world markets. SUVs were popular worldwide and electric car sales grew by 75%.

Lamborghini Urus Geneva Auto Salon 2019
SUVs accounted for more than a third of all new cars sold worldwide in 2018

Global car and light commercial vehicle sales in 2018 contracted by 0.5% to 86 million vehicles. The Volkswagen Group, Toyota and Renault-Nissan were the largest carmakers and manufacturing groups in the world in 2018. Toyota was the leading car brand and the Ford F-Series the top-selling model. The Toyota Corolla was the world’s favorite standard passenger car model in 2018. SUVs made up 36% of the world’s new car market in 2018 with 30 million SUVs sold. The sales of electric cars increased by 74%.

Global New Car Sales in 2018 (Full Year)

2018 Global Car Sales
© Jato

According to Jato, 2018 marked a somewhat challenging year for the global car market, as sales fell for the first time since 2009. However, worldwide car sales remained near record levels.

Many carmakers felt the effects of trade tensions between the world’s biggest economies, political changes in key markets, and new threats to the status quo of the industry. “Last year could be considered as the beginning of a new era for the automotive industry,” said Felipe Munoz, JATO’s global analyst.

Global Car Sales by Region in 2018
© Jato

Strong results in India, Brazil, Russia and South East Asia offset stalling sales in Europe, China and the US. “The dip in the Chinese market had ramifications upon the rest of the global market in 2018. As China makes up nearly 30% of global vehicle sales, any change that happens there is felt across the rest of the world,” explains Munoz.

Besides stalling sales in China, the automotive industry also had to deal with uncertainty in the European market, following the fallout from Brexit and the introduction of more complex environmental regulations. It also had to deal with leadership changes at some of the world’s biggest car makers, which are not always easy to navigate.

In what was one of the most significant results from 2018, India became the world’s fourth largest car market, as it was finally able to outsell Germany. India’s growth is projected to continue over the next few years, with it expected to become the third largest market by 2021.

Elsewhere, Russia climbed the rankings and overtook South Korea, while Argentina and Turkey – two big producers of vehicles – saw declines, having felt the effects of challenging economic times. China continued to lead the world rankings with 28.08 million sales, followed by Europe with 17.7 million sales and the US with 17.3 million sales. Meanwhile, Latin America outsold Japan, recording 5.6 million and 5.2 million sales, respectively.

Record Global Electric Car Sales in 2018

2018 marked a record year for the sale of battery-powered electric vehicles. Passenger electric cars recorded 1.26 million sales throughout the year, up by a huge 74%.

It was one of the highest increases among all car categories on the global market, which can be explained by several factors. Firstly, Chinese demand for EVs soared throughout 2018, as the car-type gained more visibility among consumers, due in part to their promotion by local governments for their environmental impact. Secondly, Tesla finally took off. The Model 3 became the world’s best-selling EV, as it was boosted by sales in North America, where it first became available. Finally, the diesel crisis in Europe also helped to raise awareness among consumers about the benefits of driving electric.

Global Car Sales by Segment

SUVs once again drove sales in the global market, proving that the boom in demand for the segment was not just a fad, but a long-lasting trend that continues to appeal to consumers around the world. However, as was expected, growth in the segment did slow down to single digits. A record 29.77 million SUVs were sold in 2018, with volume up by 7% on 2017. Even though growth in the segment remained strong, as SUVs recorded the highest percentage increase among all segments, it was the lowest result of the past four years and was almost half the growth registered in 2017, when sales increased year on year by 13%.

Despite the double-digit growth posted by Toyota, Hyundai-Kia and Volkswagen Group, which outsold GM, Renault-Nissan continued to dominate the SUV segment, recording almost 12% of the market share. SUVs also made up a large portion of the sales of FCA, Geely, Mazda, Tata Group, and many Chinese makers as well.

All SUV subsegments recorded positive results. Compact SUVs continued to be the most popular among consumers, recording 12.3 million sales during 2018, followed by midsize SUVs with 7.2 million sales. Elsewhere, small SUVs recorded double-digit growth with 6.6 million sales, while 3.7 million large SUVs were sold.

The continuous demand for SUVs came at the expense of sales of traditional cars. Among them, MPVs posted the largest drop, where volume was down by 14% to 6 million units – nearly 1 million less than in 2017 – as they lost ground in almost every market. Compact cars (hatchbacks, sedans and SWs) also recorded a decline, as volume fell by 8% following drops in the US and European markets.

Conversely, 2018 marked a good year for pickups, which outsold city-cars, as global volume totalled 5.2 million units, up by 5% on 2017. Surprisingly, the growth in the segment was not driven by the US, where more than half of global sales are recorded, but by Thailand and Brazil.

Toyota was the best-selling car brand globally in 2018 and the Ford F-Series the top-selling car model in 2018.

Worldwide Car Sales per Brand in 2018

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience in online writing. His best-selling cars website has been reporting car sales statistics since 2008 with classic car auction prices focusing on the most expensive automobiles sold at public auctions in the past decade. He also owns the travel websites European-Traveler.com and Lake Geneva Switzerland. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Finance from the University of London.