2021 (Q1) International: Worldwide Car Sales

2021 (Q1), new car sales increased worldwide with a strong recovery in China, India, and the USA but weak growth in Japan and Europe, and weaker sales in Russia and Brazil.

2021 (Q1), new car sales increased worldwide with a strong recovery in China, India, and the USA but weak growth in Japan and Europe, and weaker sales in Russia and Brazil.

In the first quarter of 2021, major car markets worldwide largely recovered from the initial shock of lockdowns that started early in 2020. In China, new car sales were 76% higher than in the first three months of 2020 while the Indian market grew by a third. The US market was up by 11% while the Japanese automobile market expanded by 4%. New passenger vehicle registrations in Europe were flat with only a one percent increase in sales. The Russian market was slightly weaker while the contraction in Brazil continued. With the exception of India, all the major markets were still weaker than during the first quarter two years ago.

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

Worldwide Car Sales in 2021 (January to March)

New light passenger vehicle sales in various regions of the world monitored by the VDA were as follows in the first quarter of 2021:

RegionQ1/2021Q1/2020% Change 21/20Q1/2019% Change 21/19Q1/2018
Europe**3,080,0003,054,7000.94,146,200-25.54,282,100
Russia387,300390,000-2.8391,700-1.1392,900
USA*3,869,9003,476,50011.34,008,200-2.94,093,100
Japan1,196,8001,148,5004.21,276,400-6.21,303,900
Brazil*498,500534,300-6.7581,500-14.3528,200
India848,900657,20036.3844,2000.6861,500
China5,009,0002,832,90075.65,164,100-3.25,994,100
*Light vehicles
**(EU+EFTA+UK)
Source: VDA

China — the World’s Largest Growing Car Market in 2021 (Q1)

China, which was the first major economy to close down in reaction to the Coronavirus in 2020, also staged the first and by far strongest recovery of the car market in the first quarter of 2021. New car sales in China surged by a phenomenal 76% compared to the first three months of 2021 to again exceed five million vehicles.

During 2021 (Q1), the Chinese new car market was over two million vehicles larger than in 2020. However, the Chinese new car market was still 3% smaller than at the start of 2019. However, in contrast to the fist quarters of 2020, China was again the largest single-country car market in the world during the first quarter of 2021.

India — Strong Growth in Car Sales in 2021 (Q1)

New car sales in India increased by 36.3% during the first quarter of 2021. The strong recovery in India led to higher car sales thus far this year than in the pre-pandemic period — the only major car market in the world to have higher volumes in 2021 than in 2019. However, the Indian new car market remains far smaller than that of neighboring China.

USA — Strong Recovery in Car Sales in 2021(Q1)

Despite an 11% increase in new light-vehicle sales during the first quarter of 2021, the US lost the claim to the world’s largest car market that it reclaimed from China at the start of 2020. Car Sales in the USA were around 3% weaker than in the same period two years ago.

As before, traditional passenger car sales in the USA continued to contract (-5%) while SUVs and light trucks sales increased (+17%).

Japan — Stronger Car Sales in 2021 (Q1)

The Japanese new car market recovered during the first quarter of 2021 with new passenger vehicle registrations increasing by 4.2%. However, the Japanese new car market remained over 6% smaller than two years ago.

Europe — Weak Car Sales in 2021 (Q1)

New car sales in the European Union, EFTA, and the UK halved during March 2020 with car sales down by a quarter during the first quarter of 2020. The recovery in 2021 was slow with sales up only 0.9% during the first quarter of the year (but 87% in March 2021) and still a good 25.5% lower than during the first quarter of 2019.

Car sales in Germany and Britain were weaker in the first quarter of 2021 but up sharply in France and Italy.

In Russia, new light-vehicle sales were 2.8% lower in the first quarter of 2021 but only 1.1% lower than two years ago.

Brazil — Weak Car Market in 2021 (Q1)

The Brazilian new car market contracted for the third consecutive quarter at the start of 2021 with sales down by 6.7%. Light vehicle sales during the first quarter of 2021 were 14% lower than in 2019.

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