2021 (Full Year) International: Worldwide Car Sales

In 2021, car sales worldwide increased by 4% with China the largest single-country new car market and India the fastest-growing major global vehicle market.

es worldwide increased by 4% with China the largest single-country new car market and India the fastest-growing major global vehicle market.

In full-year 2021, global car sales were slightly stronger in most major regions of the world. China remained the largest and best-performing major single-country car market in the world with sales up 6.6% to more than 21 million vehicles. In India, car sales grew even faster at 27% but the overall vehicle market remained relatively small. New passenger vehicle registrations in Japan and Europe were weaker in 2021 while the market for light vehicles expanded slightly in Russia, the USA, and Brazil. The outlook for car sales in 2022 is positive although supply-chain shortages of especially semiconductors are likely to limit supply rather than demand.

Latest Worldwide Car Sales — 2024: (Q1); 2023: (Q1, Half Year, Q3, Full Year); 2022: (Q1, Full Year); 2021: (Q1, Half Year, Full Year); 2020

Annual Worldwide Car Sales (2013-2021)

Annual car sales in various major markets monitored by the VDA were as follows between 2013 and 2021:

Europe (EU+UK+EFTA)11,774,90011,961,20015,805,80015,624,50015,631,70015,131,70014,201,90013,006,50012,308,200
*Light vehicles
Source: VDA

Passenger vehicle sales in the largest car markets in the world increased by around 3.9% in 2021. Combined worldwide car sales in the largest global markets were at 58 million cars — better than in 2020 but lower than any other year since 2013. Combined car sales for these large global markets are still around 10 million vehicles lower than during the peaks in 2018 and 2017.

Worldwide Car Sales in 2021 (Full Year)

Worldwide car sales in the largest passenger vehicle markets in the world were as follows in full-year 2021:

Region20212020% 20/21
Europe (EU+UK+EFTA)11,774,90011,961,200-1.5
*Light vehicles
Source: VDA

China — Largest Car Market in 2021 (January to December)

The Chinese new car market easily remained the largest single-country market in the world in 2021. Chinese car sales expanded by 6.6% and thus the fastest of the three global large car markets. In 2021, car sales in China were over 6 million higher than in the USA and nearly 10 million more than in Europe.

Of the three large global car markets, only the Chinese market has reached pre-pandemic sales in 2021. However, car sales in China in 2021 were still well below the high 24 million cars reached in 2017.

Stronger Car Sales in the USA in 2021 (Full Year)

Light vehicle sales in the USA were 3.1% up in 2021 but remained a good two million vehicles less than in 2019. As with the European market, sales slowed down dramatically towards the end of the year as carmakers struggled with semiconductor supplies. Toyota seemed to have weathered the storm better than most and became the top-selling carmaker in the USA in 2021 — the first time in 90 years that GM was outsold in its home market.

The trend towards light trucks (including many SUVs and crossovers) continued in the US in 2021. While the sales of traditional passenger cars in the US contracted by 2%, light truck sales were up 5%. Many brands reported record shares for SUVs, e.g. for Volkswagen almost three-quarters of vehicles sold in the USA in 2021 were SUVs.

Very Weak Car Sales in Europe in 2021 (Full Year)

New passenger vehicle registrations in Europe (European Union, UK, and EFTA countries) contracted even further in 2021 and were over a quarter, or four million vehicles, weaker than in 2019. Most European country markets grew slightly but the largest — Germany — had sales down by 10%. In contrast, the second and third largest European new car markets (France and the UK) recovered slightly.

Weaker Car Sales in Japan in 2021 (Full Year)

New passenger vehicle registrations in Japan in 2021 contracted by 3.5% to 3,675,700 cars — the lowest level since 2011 when Japan was hit by the tsunami. Toyota remained by far the largest carmaker in Japan in 2021.

Strong Car Sales in India in 2021 (Full Year)

In 2021, new car sales in India increased by 26.7% to 3,082,400 cars compared to 2,435,100 cars in 2020. No other major global market grew faster. Although car sales in India were higher than in 2019, the market was still around 10% weaker than in 2018 and 2017. Given the large population, the Indian new car market remains relatively small compared to other large countries such as China.

Flat Car Sales in Brazil in 2021 (Full Year)

The Brazilian new light vehicle market remained weak although car sales increased by a moderate 1.1% in 2021. Car sales were still only a quarter of pre-pandemic levels and well below the highs of well over 3 million units in 2014 and 2013.

Stronger Car Sales in Russia in 2021 (Full Year)

Light vehicle sales in Russia were 4.3% up in 2021 but still significantly smaller than before the pandemic. In 2013, the Russian new car market was still over a million vehicles larger than in 2021.

Latest Worldwide Car Sales — 2024: (Q1); 2023: (Q1, Half Year, Q3, Full Year); 2022: (Q1, Full Year); 2021: (Q1, Half Year, Full Year); 2020

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.