2017 (January) International: Worldwide Car Sales

January 2017: new passenger vehicle registrations in Europe and Japan increased while car sales were weaker in the USA, Brazil and Russia and flat in China.

Rolls-Royce Dawn at the Geneva Auto Salon 2016

European new car sales continued to increase at the start of 2017 with new passenger vehicle sales up 10% in the European Union and EFTA during January 2017. Car sales in Japan also increased by 4.4%. In China, sales were flat and at -0.2% probably better than expected after a tax regime change at the start of 2017. Light vehicle (trucks, SUVs and cars) were weaker in the USA, Russia and Brazil during the first month of 2017.

Worldwide Car Sales in 2017 (January)

New light vehicle registrations in various major regions of the world were as follows according to car sales statistics released by the VDA:

Region Jan 2017 % Change
Europe (EU+EFTA) 1,204,000 10.1
Russia* 77,900 -5.0
USA* 1,137,800 -1.7
Japan 343,400 4.4
Brazil* 143,800 -4.0
India NA NA
China 2,137,200 -0.2
*Light vehicles
Source: VDA

Stronger Car Sales in Europe in January 2017

The new car market in the European Union and EFTA countries continued the trend of strong car sales in recent months with another 10.1% increase in new passenger vehicle registrations in January 2017. This increase follows on record December month sales in 2016 and the highest sales volume for the year since 2007.

In January 2017, new passenger vehicle registrations in the EU and EFTA increased for the 39th time in 41 months. Car sales were helped by January having two sales days more in 2017 than last year.

Car sales were also boosted by strong sales increases around 10% in four of the largest European car markets: Germany, France, Italy and Spain. In the UK, sales were up a more modest 3%. The only countries with negative January 2017 figures were Switzerland, Ireland and Slovakia.

For the full year 2017, the ACEA predicted a more modest 1% increase in sales largely due to political uncertainty.

Stronger Car Sales in Japan in January 2017

New passenger vehicle registrations in Japan also increased during January 2017. Car sales were up 4.4% to 343,400 vehicles.

January 2017 was the third consecutive month of increases in car sales in Japan.

Flat Car Sales in China in January 2017

New car sales in China was marginally weaker in January 2017 when 0.2% fewer cars were sold compared to the first month of 2016. The total sales volume of 2.137,200 cars was still a million vehicles more than in the USA leaving China by far the largest single-country car market in the world.

Weaker sales in China at the start of 2017 were widely expected as sales taxes on smaller engine cars increased from 5% to 7.5% at the start of the year. In expectation of this tax increase, new car sales in China increased by around 20% in both October and November 2016 and 10% in December.

Weaker Car Sales in the USA in January 2017

New light vehicle sales in the USA in January 2017 were down 1.7% to 1,137,800 vehicles compared to January 2017, which was also not a very strong month. January 2017 had one sales weekend less than last year. The American market was around a million vehicles smaller than in China and 100,000 cars smaller than Europe in January 2017.

The trend away from cars to trucks and SUVs continued in the USA at the start of 2017. Passenger car sales in the USA were down 13% in January 2017 to 411,500 cars. In contrast, light truck (including SUVs) sales increased by 6% to 726,300 vehicles for a 63.8% share of the new light vehicle market compared to 58.7% in January 2016.

Weaker Car Sales in Russia in January 2017

Light vehicle sales in Russia contracted by a further 5% during the first month of 2017. Total light vehicle sales in Russia were at 77,900 vehicles the lowest monthly sales figure since January 2010.

Lower Car Sales in Brazil in January 2017

In Brazil, light vehicle sales were again weaker with no positive signs of a recovery yet. Light vehicle sales in Brazil contracted by another 4% to 143,800 vehicles – 100,000 cars less than were sold in January 2015 and less than half the 297,200 vehicles that were sold in Brazil in January 2013.