2015 (Q1) International: Worldwide Car Sales

Rolls Royce Serenity at the Geneva Auto Show 2015March 2015: new vehicle registrations increased in China and Europe but car sales were flat in the US, India and Brazil and weaker in Japan and Russia. Car sales grew fastest in China – the world’s largest single-country market – while the European market was larger than the US for the first time in months. New light vehicle registrations were flat in the USA and India. Although the Japanese and Brazilian markets were still negative in March 2015, the outlook is improving. In stark contrast, the contraction of the Russian car market accelerated.

Worldwide Car Sales in 2015 (Q1)

New passenger vehicle registrations in various major regions of the world monitored by the VDA were as follows in March and the first quarter of 2015:

Region March 2015 % Change Q1/2015 % Change
Europe (EU+EFTA) 1,650,700 10.8 3,637,600 8.5
Russia* 139,900 -42.5 383,700 -36.3
USA* 1,537,800 0.4 3,937,000 5.6
Japan 586,800 -11.9 1,344,000 -15.5
Brazil* 226,300 -1.2 649,900 -16.2
India 244,400 2.7 706,200 4.5
China 1,746,200 12.0 4,978,700 11.3
Source: VDA 6,132,100 3.0 15,637,100 2.9

* US, Brazil and Russia include light vehicles (trucks)

Continued Growth in the Chinese Car Market in 2015 (Q1)

New car sales in China accelerated again with 12% the best monthly increase thus far this year. In March 2015, the Chinese car market grew to 1,746,200 vehicles – still comfortably ahead of the European Union and the USA.

During the first quarter of 2015, the Chinese market grew by 11.3% to just fewer than 5 million cars. Although growth increased at a slower pace than in recent years, China remained the world’s fastest growing major car market.

German luxury car brands continued to perform very well internationally and especially in China during the first quarter of 2015.

Strong Car Sales Growth in Europe in 2015 (Q1)

The European car market (EU & EFTA) expanded by 10.8% in March 2015 – the 19th consecutive month of sales growth. For the first time since September 2015, the European car market was bigger than the US.

During the first quarter of 2015, the European car market expanded by 8.5% to 3,637,600 deliveries. The five largest markets all grew with Spain up by more than a third and Italy having double-digit growth in each month of 2015 thus far.

However, in Russia, the contraction of the market accelerated. Registrations of light vehicles in Russia were down by 42.5% in March with a 36.3% decline in sales during the first quarter of 2015.

Weaker Sales in Japan in 2015 (Q1)

In Japan, the contraction in new passenger vehicle registrations slowed. The Japanese market grew at a fast pace during the first quarter of 2014 in anticipation of sales tax increases on April 1, 2014, and as a result, the numbers looked very weak this year. However, things were looking up in March 2015 when sales were down only 12% after sliding 16% in February and 21% in January.

Car sales in Japan declined by 15.5% in the first quarter of 2015. However, the Japanese still bought 50,000 more cars in the first three months of 2015 compared to the first quarter of 2013. The comparative numbers should start to improve from April onwards.

Flat Sales in India in 2015 (Q1)

The Indian new car market grew by a moderate 2.7% in March 2015. March showed the weakest growth thus far in 2015.

New passenger vehicle registrations in India in the first quarter of 2015 increased by 4.5% to 706,200 cars – around a seventh of the size of the Chinese new car market.

Flat Car Sales in Brazil in 2015 (Q1)

The Brazilian light vehicle market contracted by 1.2% in March 2015 – by far the best month this far this year. In January, car sales in Brazil were down 19% and in February down 27%.

During the first quarter of 2015, the Brazilian new car market contracted by 16% compared to a year ago.

Flat Vehicles Sales in the United States in 2015 (Q1)

New light vehicle registrations in the US were flat in March 2015 with only 0.4% growth for 1,537,800 vehicles. As a result, the EU market was bigger than the US for the first time since September 2014. In contrast to most of Europe, the US had one working day fewer in March 2015.

In March 2015, passenger car sales in the US declined by 4% to 711,800 cars. In contrast, light vehicle (truck) sales grew by 5% to 826,000 vehicles. Year-to-date, car sales in the US have been flat at 1.8 million cars while truck sales increased by 11% to 2.2 million vehicles.