2016 (January to November) International: Worldwide Car Sales

Bugatti Chiron at Geneva 2016November 2016: New passenger vehicle registrations increased in China, Europe, the USA, Japan, India and Russia but car sales were down in Brazil. The new car market in China expanded by another fifth in November 2016 to exceed 2.5 million new passenger vehicle registrations in a single month for the first time ever. The US, Japanese and Russian new light vehicle registrations showed the best improvements for several months while growth in Europe and India continued at a moderate rate. The contraction in the new light vehicle market in Brazil continued in November but at a slower rate than for most months of 2016.

Worldwide New Vehicle Sales in 2016 (January to November)

New passenger vehicle registrations in major regions of the world monitored by the VDA were as follows in November 2016 and during the first 11 months of 2016:

RegionNovember 2016% ChangeJan – Nov 2016% Change
Europe (EU+EFTA)1,189,2005.613,938,3006.9
*Light vehicles
Source: VDA

Record Month for New Car Sales in China in November 2016

In November 2016, new car sales in China increased by another 19.8% to set a new monthly unit record of 2,537,800 new passenger vehicle registrations in a single month. Car sales in China in November 2016 were just less than the sales of cars in Europa and the USA combined.

Car sales in China were helped by the expectation that lower taxes on smaller engine cars may be revoked soon. These lower sales taxes on cars with engines smaller than 1.6 liter were introduced in October 2015 and the Chinese new car market has expanded by around a fifth since then. The general expectations are that sales taxes will return to the higher level by the end of the year.

During the first eleven months of 2016, new passenger vehicle registrations in China increased by 18.6% to 21,058,400 cars – just over a million more than were sold during all of 2015.

Strong Car Sales in Europe in 2016 (January to November)

Flat car sales in Europe in October 2016 were blamed on fewer working days and the market came good in November when new passenger vehicle registrations increased by 5.6% to 1,189,200 cars. Car sales in Spain increased by a strong 13%, in France by 9% and in Italy by 8%. In the two largest European new car markets, sales increased by a more modest 3% in Britain and only 2% in Germany.

Year-to-date 2016, new vehicle registrations in Europe were up by 7% to nearly 14 million cars – only around 300,000 shy of the total for the full year 2015.

Car Sales Growth in Russia in November 2016

In November 2016, light vehicle sales in Russia increased by 0.6% to 132,300 units – this was the first monthly year-on-year sales increase in Russia in nearly two years. Year-to-date 2016, the Russian light vehicle market was still smaller by 12% than a year ago.

Growth in US Car Sales in November 2016

New light vehicle sales in the USA increased by 3.7% in November 2016 after three consecutive months of contracting. The US market was helped by two extra sales days and strong incentives offered in Black Friday and Thanksgiving campaigns.

The trend away from cars in favor of SUVs continued in the US in November 2016. Car sales were down 4% to 509,000 cars while light truck and SUV sales increased by 9% to 863,400 light vehicles.

Continued Expansion of the Indian Car Market in November 2016

The Indian new car market continued to expand in November 2016 although sales were up by only moderate 1.8% to 241,000 cars. The Indian market was not helped by confusion and frustrations caused by the surprise withdrawal of banknotes from the financial system.

Thus far in 2016, new passenger vehicle registrations in India increased by nearly 8% to 2,738,800 cars.

Unexpected Growth in Japanese Car Sales in November 2016

New passenger vehicle registrations in Japan showed a surprisingly large 8.8% increase in November 2016. This was the strongest monthly increase since March 2014 (when buyers brought purchased forward to beat a sales tax increase).

Year-to-date 2016, Japanese car sales were still down 2.4% form the 3.8 million cars sold during the first eleven months of 2015.

Continued Weakness in the Brazilian Car Market in November 2016

Brazil was the only major market with weaker sales in November 2016 compared to a year ago. However, the 8.3% contraction in new light vehicle sales in November 2016 was the best performance of the Brazilian vehicle market thus far in 2016. Although the Brazilian car market is down by a fifth year-to-date 2016 there are some positive indicators in the broader economy that may start to work through to the vehicle market during 2017.

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.