In 2020, car sales worldwide contracted by 15%. China and Russia performed the best. Car sales in Japan, the USA, and India were down by double-digit percentages while the European and Brazilian new car markets contracted by a quarter.
In full-year 2020, global car sales were weaker in all major regions of the world. China remained the largest and best-performing single-country car market in the world with sales down 6% to just less than 20 million vehicles. Car sales in Russia and Japan were down by around a tenth while the US and Indian markets were down by around 17%. Car sales in Brazil were down by 27% while the large European market contracted by 24%. The outlook for car sales in 2021 is positive although pre-Coronavirus levels will not be reached during 2021.
Annual Worldwide Car Sales (2013-2020)
Annual car sales in various major markets monitored by the VDA were as follows between 2013 and 2020:
Passenger vehicle sales in the largest car markets in the world contracted by around 15% in 2020. Combined worldwide car sales in the largest markets of 56 million vehicles were the lowest number in years.
The VDA forecasts that total worldwide car sales in 2021 will grown by 9% to 73.8 million cars.
Worldwide Car Sales in 2020 (December and Full Year)
Worldwide car sales in the largest passenger vehicle markets in the world were as follows in December and full-year 2020:
|Region||Dec 2020||% Change||1-12/2020||% Change|
|*Light vehicles |
China — Best-Performing Car Market in 2020 (January to December)
The Chinese new car market contracted by 6.1% in 2020. This was the third consecutive year of weaker car sales in China but the Chinese new car market was by far the best-perfoming large market in the world in 2020. China recovered from the Coronavirus much faster than other regions in 2020.
In 2020, the Chinese new car market was less than 20 million vehicles for the first time since 2014. After a severe lockdown early in the year, the Chinese new car market expanded the last eight months of the year. The Chinese new car market is expected to grow by 8% in 2021, as the only major market to approach pre-Corona sales during 2021.
Chinese sales of German luxury car brands were once again ahead of the rest of the market in 2020 to give these marques healthy earnings at a time when other rich global markets were weaker.
Weak Car Sales in the USA in 2020 (Full Year)
Light vehicle sales in the USA were 15% weaker in 2020 with the total market 2.5 million vehicles smaller than in 2019 and the first time since 2012 that the US market was smaller than 15 million vehicles. Although several brands reported strong sales during the final months of the year, the total market remained well below previous levels. The VDA expect the American car market to grow by 9% in 2021.
The trend towards light trucks (including many SUVs and crossovers) continued in the US in 2020. While the sales of traditional passenger cars in the US contracted by 28%, light truck sales were down only 10% to take a record 76% market share.
See also USA sales by individual brands in 2020.
Very Weak Car Sales in Europe in 2020 (Full Year)
New passenger vehicle registrations in Europe (European Union, UK, and EFTA countries) collapsed by a quarter — the worst performance by far of the three large global car markets. Most of the damage was done during the second quarter of 2020 when markets were closed unexpectedly. During further lockdowns later in the year, the market was better prepared to follow alternative options.
Germany remained the largest car market in Europe and outperformed with sales down by less than a fifth. Car sales in France were higher than in the UK despite a 25.5% contraction, as British sales were even weaker and 29.4% lower than in 2019. All European new car markets were weaker in 2020 with Norway (-0.7) the only country with sales down by less than a tenth.
The VDA expect the European new car market to grow by around 12% during 2021.
Weaker Car Sales in Japan in 2020 (Full Year)
New passenger vehicle registrations in Japan in 2020 contracted by 11% to 3.8 million cars — the lowest level since 2011 when Japan was hit by the tsunami.
In December 2020, the Japanese market expanded by 11% for the third consecutive month of growth. However, these figures are somewhat distorting as sales during the final quarter of 2019 were very weak due to a sales tax increase.
Low Car Sales in India in 2020 (Full Year)
In 2020, new car sales in India were down 18% to 2,435,100 cars. The Indian car market was locked down for months early in the year and sales were often robust in the following months. In December 2020, the Indian new car market expanded by a strong 14%.
Very Weak Car Sales in Brazil in 2020 (Full Year)
The Brazilian new light vehicle market, which expanded for three years up to 2019, was the weakest major car market in 2020 with sales down by 27% to less than two million vehicles.
Weaker Car Sales in Russia in 2020 (Full Year)
Light vehicle sales in Russia were 9.1% weaker in 2020 at 1.6 million vehicles. The Russian new car market was thus with China the only major markets to have contracted by less than 20% in 2020.
→ Global Sales by Brand Worldwide in Full-Year 2020: Audi, Bentley, BMW (including Mini & Rolls Royce), Hyundai, Kia, Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz (including Smart), Mini, Porsche, PSA Group (Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel / Vauxhall) Renault Group (incl. Dacia), Rolls-Royce, Skoda, Tesla, Volkswagen (VW Car Brand), Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWCV), Volkswagen Group, Volvo.