2020 (January and February) International: Car Sales Worldwide

February 2020: car sales worldwide were lower with the market in China collapsing, sales weak in Europa, Japan, and India, and only the US and Brazilian markets stronger.

Piech at Geneva Auto Salon - Car sales worldwide were down in February 2020 with the Chinese new car market suffering a total collapse

January & February 2020: new passenger vehicle registrations were lower worldwide with only the US market growing to become again the largest single-country new car market in the world. The Chinese new car market collapsed in February with new car sales also weaker thus far in 2020 in Europe, Japan, and India. New car sales in Brazil were only moderately weaker than a year ago. While the Coronavirus caused the market collapse in China, the virus could not yet be blamed for any of the weakness experienced in other markets. The outlook for car markets worldwide in 2020 is very negative.

Worldwide Car Sales 2020: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, Full Year

Worldwide Car Sales in 2020 (January and February)

Car sales in the largest car markets in the world were as follows in February and year-to-date 2020 according to the VDA:

RegionFeb 2019% ChangeJan-Feb 2019% Change
Europe (EU+EFTA+UK)1,066,800-7.22,202,000-7.3
*Light vehicles
Source: VDA

Chinese New Car Market Collapsing in February 2020

The Chinese new car market suffered a total collapse in February 2020 with sales down 82% or 224,000 cars. In February 2020, car sales in China were weaker than in the USA, Japan, India, and Germany (240,000 cars).

The sharp contraction in car sales in China was due to the Coronavirus and strict restrictions applied to consumers in China during and after the Chinese New Year celebration holidays. The effect of the virus could not yet be blamed for the clear weakness in most other countries.

During January and February 2020, the Chinese new car market was 44% weaker than a year ago. For the first time in years, both the American and European new car markets were bigger than the Chinese market.

Car Sales in the USA Stronger in 2020 (January and February)

Light vehicle sales in the USA were up both in February 2020 and during the first two months of the year making the US the only major car market to have expanded thus far this year. The US is once again the largest single-country market in the world.

The trend away from traditional passenger cars in the US continued in February 2020 with sales down 5% while light truck sales (including SUVs) increased by 14%. The US market was also helped by two additional sales day in February 2020.

Europe – Weaker Car Sales in February 2020

In February 2020, new passenger vehicle registrations in Europe (European Union, EFTA, and UK) were 7% lower than a year ago. Car sales in the five largest markets were weaker with sales down 11% in Germany, 9% in Italy, 6% in Spain, and around 3% in both France and the UK.

A weak start to the year was expected in Europe following a rush at the end of 2019 to register cars with higher emissions and to beat a change in tax regimes in several European countries. However, it was already clear in early March that the shock of the Coronavirus – which did not yet affect European sales in January or February – would prevent the gradual recovery of the market that was expected in the European spring.

Japan – Weaker Car Sales in 2020

New passenger vehicle registrations in Japan in February 2020 were down by a tenth. The Japanese car market has been generally weaker since an increase in sales taxes in October 2019. Thus far this year, the Japanese new car market contracted by 11%.

India – Weaker Car Market in 2020

New vehicle sales in India were down 8% in February 2020 to 251,500 vehicles. The Indian new car market in February 2020 was slightly bigger than the Chinese market but year to date the Chinese market was still more than three times larger than the Indian market.

Brazil – Stronger Car Sales in February 2020

Other than the US, the Brazilian light vehicle market was the only large car market in the world to have expanded in February 2020. However, the growth was a moderate 1.6% and not enough to balance out a weak January. Year-to-date 2020, light vehicle sales in Brazil were down by just less than 1%.

Worldwide Car Sales 2020: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, Full Year

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.