2016 (January & February) International: Worldwide Car Sales

Bugatti Chiron at Geneva Auto Show 2016February 2016: Car sales increased strongly in Europe and the USA, moderately in China and India while the Japanese, Russian and Brazilian markets weakened further. The European Union saw the 30th consecutive month of car sales increases in February 2016. The US market also expanded and was the largest single-country market in the world for the month. Thus far this year, China remained the largest car market.

Worldwide Car Sales in 2016 (January & February)

New vehicle registrations in major regions of the world monitored by the VDA were as follows in February 2016:

RegionFeb 2016% ChangeJan & Feb 2016% Change
Europe (EU+EFTA)1,092,80014.02,186,60010.1
Source: VDA

Note: *USA, Brazil and Russia include light vehicles (trucks). % Change refers to same period the previous year.

USA Largest Car Market in February 2016

The USA was the largest single-country car market in the world in February 2016. Light vehicle registrations increased by 6.7% to 1,335,7500 vehicles. Year-to-date, registration increased by a more moderate 3.2% to just less than 2.5 million – more than a million units behind China.

The US light vehicle market had it strongest February in 2016 since 2001. Car sales were flat at 556,200 cars but light truck and SUV sales increased by 12% to 779,500 vehicles.

Strong Growth in the European New Car Market in February 2016

February 2016 was the best February since 2008 for new vehicle registrations in the European Union and EFTA countries. Car sales in February 2016 were up 14% to 1,092,800 cars.

New car sales in Germany in February 2016 increased by a strong 12%. The Italian new car market was again larger than the French with sales up 27% in Italy and 13% in France and Spain. In February 2016, car sales in the UK were up 8% but the UK was only the fifth largest European car market rather than the traditional second largest. (The British car market is traditionally weak in February as the British registration number system skews the market in favor of sales in March and September.)

Flat Car Sales in China in 2016 (February)

The Chinese new car market grew by only 1.6% in February 2016, or 7.7% year-to-date. In February, the Chinese car market was around 16,000 cars smaller than the US but over the first two months of 2016, the Chinese market remained the largest in the world with sales over a million more than in the US or Europe.

Weaker Car Sales in Japan in 2016

In Japan, the new car market weakened further in February after a slow start to the year. Car sales were down 7.5% in February 2016 and down 6% over the first two months of 2016.

The Japanese car market statistics are somewhat influenced by the change in tax on Kei (mini) cars in April 2015. This led to higher purchases during the first three months of 2015 – Kei car sales during the first two months of 2016 were down 13% to 261,300 minicars. However, even without the tax effect, the Japanese car market remained weak.

Flat Car Sales in India in February 2016

The Indian car market expanded by a moderate 1.7% in February 2016 to 234,200 cars. During the first two months of the year, the Indian new car market expanded by just a percentage point to 466,200 cars – around a seventh the size of the Chinese car market.

Weaker Vehicle Sales in Russia and Brazil in February 2016

In both Russia and Brazil the new light vehicle market continued to contract in February but at a less severe pace than in January. In Russia, light vehicle sales were down 13% in February 2016 to 111,100 cars. The market was down by a fifth during the first two months of the year.

In Brazil, new light vehicle registrations in February 2016 were down 20% to 142,300 vehicles. Year to date, the Brazilian car market has shrunk by nearly a third.

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.