After eight years of uninterrupted growth, in 2018 the world car market registered the first signs of fatigue. The decrease of new car sales was particularly felt in China, while Europe, Japan and the United States showed a certain stability. The only markets in net growth were Brazil, Russia and India.
Difficulties of the second semester in Europe with the introduction of the new standard on WLTP emissions and in China with the economic slowdown and trade clashes with the United States, have prevented reaching the expected share of 100 million cars sold in the world. We have had to settle for 95.6 million, equal to -0.2%.
Despite remaining the world’s largest car market, China recorded its first downturn (-4%) after two decades of uninterrupted growth. In December 2018 new car sales were 16% lower than in the same month of the previous year and December was the sixth consecutive month of decrease. According to experts, the decrease is not only attributable to a weaker domestic economy but also to the uncertainty of the tariff war with the United States.
Uncertainty is also weighed on the US market, which grew by only 0.5%, with 17.2 million vehicles sold, mainly thanks to the success of SUV models (+ 8%).
In the European Union and in the three Efta countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), car sales decreased by 0.04% for a total of 15.6 million cars (six thousand cars less). In December alone, sales in Europe fell by 9%. According to the Centro Studi Promotor, this is a result that can be considered essentially positive given that in the year that has just ended, there were several factors that penalised the development of car sales. In the first place, the economic situation, while remaining positive, has gradually worsened. The introduction of the new WLTP approval system from 1 September caused, thus, many supply problems to car manufacturers. Finally, the demonisation of diesel has weighed on sales for more ideological reasons than for the real purpose of environmental protection.
In the EU the demand was driven by the countries of Central Europen countries (+ 8%). These are the results of the first five markets: Spain (+ 7%), France (+ 3%), Germany (-0.2%), Italy (-3.1%), the United Kingdom (-6.8%).
It is interesting to take a look at the ranking of the brightest car groups. Elaborations of Americans’ Focus2Move indicate a very tight three-way fight. Volkswagen maintains the command with 10.8 million units sold (+ 2.2%). Toyota follows with 10.5 million registrations (+ 2.2%) while the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance records 10.3 million units sold (+ 1.3%). General Motors has to settle for a difficult fourth place, as it is down by 2% to 8.7 million. The best growth among main groups is the Korean Hyundai-Kia: + 3.2% with 7.5 million vehicles. Bad year instead for Ford that must withstand a collapse of -8.9% with 5,734,306 units sold. Americans are thus undermined by the Japanese Honda that halve their gap, despite a fall of 0.6%: 5,265,125 units sold. FCA follows, which has almost replicated sales of 2017: 4,840,664 registrations, a change of 0.0% (about a thousand vehicles more). The French PSA turned slightly away due to -2.9% in sales, recorded at 4.1 million models. Suzuki closes the top 10, + 1.2% with 3.2 million registrations.
Finally, according to surveys of the Global Auto Database, the 5 best-selling car models in the world last year were: Toyota Corolla with 1.18 million registered units, Ford F-Series, Toyota RAV4, Honda Civic and Volkswagen Tiguan.