2016 (January to May) International: Worldwide Car Sales

Ferrari stand Geneva 2016May 2016: new passenger vehicle registrations increased in Europe, China and India while car sales were lower in the USA, Japan, Russia and Brazil. During the first five months of 2016, the European and Chinese new car markets grew by around 10% while the Indian market expanded by 6% and the US market a more moderate 1%. Cars sales in Japan were down 5% while the Russian market contracted by 15% and in Brazil the new light vehicle market is down by more than a quarter thus far in 2016.

Worldwide Car Sales in 2016 (Jan to May)

New vehicle registrations in various regions of the world monitored by the VDA were as follows during the first five months of 2016:

RegionMay 2016% ChangeJan-May 2016% Change
Europe (EU+EFTA)1,330,60015.56,583,4009.7

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

Continued Expansion in the European Car Market in 2016

The European car market continued its expansion with May 2016 the 33rd month of consecutive growth. New passenger vehicle registrations in the European Union (EU) and EFTA countries increased by 15.5% during May 2016 for a cumulative increase of 9.7% thus far this year.

With the exception of Switzerland (-5%) and Ireland (-6%), all other European Union and EFTA countries had higher sales in May 2016 than a year ago. In May 2016, most of the top five markets also saw strong growth: Germany (12%), Britain (2%), Italy (27%), France (22%) and Spain (21%).

Growth in the British new car market is somewhat dampened by political and economic uncertainty but the limited growth also came after three years of high growth numbers. The strong growth in the Italian and Spanish car markets, as well as in Greece (+49%), is partly due to the increase in rental cars being purchased for the summer season. The Danish market expanded by a quarter due to a lowering in registration taxes.

The Italian market was again Europe’s third largest in May 2016 and for the cumulative figures for the year too. During the first five months of 2016, only 702 more new cars were registered in Italy compared to France.

China Again the World’s Largest Car Market in May 2016

In May 2016, China was again the world’s largest car market although the growth was marginally lower than in Europe. During the first five months of 2016, the Chinese market grew faster than Europe and with a total of almost 9 million cars sold, well ahead of the second placed US market.

In May 2016, more than 1.7 million cars were sold in China – around 200,000 more than in the US and 400,000 more than in the European Union.

Lower Vehicle Sales in the USA in May 2016

New light vehicle sales (cars and trucks) in the USA contracted by 6.1% in May 2016. This contraction is largely blamed on May 2016 having two selling days less than a year ago. The “Daily Selling Rate” in the US was 2% higher in May 2016 than a year ago and 15% higher than in April 2016.

Although the US car market has grown only by a percentage point thus far this year, the outlook remains positive. The market is helped by continued low fuel prices and the availability of easy credit.

Stronger Car Sales in India in May 2016

In India, the new car market continued its steady growth in May 2016 with sales up 6.3%. Year-to-date, the Indian car market expanded by nearly 5% to double the size of the Russian new car market but still a fraction of the size of the Chinese market.

Weaker Car Sales in Japan in May 2016

The Japanese new car market contracted again in May 2016 but the decline of 1.4% is less than the 5% contraction for the first five months of 2016. In April 2016, the Japanese car market expanded the first time in 15 months and the outlook is not particularly negative but no major movements are expected in coming months.

Further Contraction of the Russian Car Market in May 2016

Light vehicle sales in Russia contracted by 14.5% in May 2016. This is in line with the decline of 14.7% for the first five months of 2016.

Continued Collapse in Brazilian Car Sales in Max 2016

In Brazil, new light vehicle sales contracted by another fifth in May 2016. During the first five months of 2016, the Brazilian new vehicle market shrunk by more than a quarter. Although the Olympic Games may require a large number of cars, the boost is unlikely to outbalance the strong recessionary factors and political uncertainty that are likely to have a very negative effect on the Brazilian market for the rest of 2016.

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.