In the first quarter of 2020, new car sales decreased in all major markets of the world including Europe, China, the USA, Japan, Brazil, and India.
In March 2020, new passenger vehicle registrations were sharply down in most major markets in the world due to closures in response to the coronavirus. The European, Indian, and Chinese new car markets were halved. In the USA, sales were down by more than a third, while the Brazilian market contracted by a fifth. The Japanese market in comparison performed better with sales down only 9%. China was again the largest new car market in the world in March 2020 but the USA still leads thus far in 2020.
Worldwide Car Sales in 2020 (January to March)
New light passenger vehicle sales in various regions of the world monitored by the VDA were as follows in March 2020 and the first quarter of 2020:
|Region||March 2020||% Change||Q1/2020||% Change|
|*Light vehicles |
China – Again World’s Largest Car Market in March 2020
China regained the title as the world’s largest new car market in March 2020. Although car sales in China were down 48% in March 2020 that was a significant improvement on the 82% contraction in February 2020.
Thus far this year, new car sales were 45% weaker than in the first quarter of 2019 when nearly 6 million cars were sold in China. The 2,832,900 cars sold thus far in 2020, are the lowest numbers for a first-quarter since 2011.
The Chinese market was the first to have to close due to the effects of the coronavirus but is also the first to gradually reopen.
In India, where the effects were only felt much later, new car sales halved in March 2020 but only down by a fifth during the first quarter of the year.
USA – Largest Car Market in the World in 2020(Q1)
The USA remained the world’s largest car market during the first quarter of 2020 with sales of almost 3.5 million – 13% lower than a year ago. However, as the coronavirus started to affect the US market, sales in March 2020 slipped 38% to just 30,000 fewer than in China.
As before, traditional passenger car sales in the USA in March 2020 contracted more (-46%) than for SUVs and light trucks -35%.
In Brazil, where the coronavirus effect started to influence new car sales fairly late, car sales were down 22% in March 2020 but only 8.1% during the first quarter of 2020.
Japan – Weaker Car Sales in March and Q1 2020
The Japanese new car market performed relatively well compared to other countries thus far in 2020. In March 2020, new passenger vehicle registration in Japan contracted by 8.9% — the best relative performance of any major car market in the world.
During the first quarter of 2020, new passenger vehicle registrations in Japan contracted by 10% – of the larger car markets only Brazil and Russia performed better.
Europe – Car Sales Halved in March 2020
New car sales in the European Union, EFTA, and the UK halved during March 2020 compared to a year ago. In Italy, France, and Spain new car sales were down by more than two-thirds. In Germany, where the coronavirus hit a few days later, the market contracted by “only” 38%.
During the first quarter of 2020, new passenger vehicle registrations in Europe were down by more than a quarter. The German new car market was down by a fifth while sales in France and Britain were around a third lower. Car sales in Europe were at the lowest numbers since the early 2000s.
In contrast, car sales in Russia for the first quarter of 2020 increased by 1.8% to 398,500 light vehicles — the only major new car market with growth thus far in 2020.