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Car sales statistics - UK & worldwide

Dan Powell

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Dan Powell

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The number of new passenger cars being bought and sold in the UK slumped to record lows in 2021. New passenger car sales in the UK will end 2021 down by 30% on pre-pandemic levels, with around 1.6 million new cars predicted for the whole of 2021. 

Experts blame Covid-19 lockdowns and a global semiconductor shortage for the UK's stalling new car industry figures. 

The UK's used car market has suffered during the pandemic, too. In 2020, the used car market fell by 15% on the year before with 6.7 million cars sold. 

Used car sales fell every month across the third quarter of 2021, with July, August and September all falling by 4.9%, 5.9% and 7.9% respectively. Overall, Q3 2021 is down by 2.0% on 2019 pre-pandemic levels, making it the weakest quarter three since 2015.

Globally, the UK remains the seventh-largest market for new vehicles but this could change in 2022 with passenger car ownership in Brazil expected to grow and potentially push the UK into eighth place. 

China is the largest global market for passenger cars, buying around 25 million new cars every year. The USA has the second-highest figure for new cars sold, followed by Japan, Germany and India. 

(Source: DfT, SMMT, JATO) 

Key new car stats and figures

  • The UK's new-vehicle market is the seventh-largest in the world. In 2020, the UK registered 1,923,720 new cars and vans
  • China registered 25,239,00 new vehicles in 2020, which makes it the largest market in terms of global sales. The USA is the second-largest new car market, followed by Japan, Germany and India
  • The Covid-19 pandemic saw the USA experience one of the largest declines in new vehicle sales on record in 2020, with a year-on-year fall of 2.5 million vehicles 
  • Car buyers in the UK will buy around 1.6 million new passenger vehicles in 2021 - a figure that's 30% lower than the pre-pandemic industry average. Market commentators blame the UK's stalling new car industry on Covid-19 lockdowns and a global shortage of semiconductors  
  • Toyota sells the most cars worldwide. In 2020, Toyota sold 9.3 million new vehicles 
  • The Ford Fiesta is the UK's favourite new car. It has led the annual sales charters since 2009
  • Ford is Britain’s top-selling vehicle brand, a position it has held for the past 44 consecutive years
  • Grey is the UK's most popular car colour, followed by black and white
  • Demand for plug-in electric passenger cars has grown significantly in the UK. In 2014, just 2.2% of all new passenger cars were electric. This figure has grown to 10.6% in 2021, which means one in 10 new cars are electric
  • Demand for diesel passenger cars has collapsed in the UK. In 2014, diesel accounted for 50% of all new passenger car sales in the UK; however, by late-2021, fewer than 15% of new passenger cars were diesel

(Source: DfT, SMMT, JATO) 

Car sales statistics UK

New cars sales statistics

Number of new passenger cars sold in the UK by year

Year

    • 2020
    • 2019
    • 2018
    • 2017
    • 2016
    • 2015
    • 2014
    • 2013
    • 2012
    • 2011

Number of new car registrations (source: SMMT)

    • 1,632,064
    • 2,311,140
    • 2,367,147
    • 2,540,617
    • 2,692,786
    • 2,633,503
    • 2,476,435
    • 2,264,737
    • 2,044,609
    • 1,941,253

New car sales by fuel type

New car sales have shifted away from diesel fuel in recent years. In 2014, diesel accounted for 50% of all new passenger car sales in the UK; however, by late-2021, fewer than 15% of new passenger cars were diesel. In contrast, petrol has increased its market share of the passenger car market. In 2014, 47.8% of all new cars used petrol. In late-2021 this figure now stands at 58.8%.

Electric and hybrid cars sales stats

Demand for plug-in electric passenger cars has grown significantly in recent years. In 2014, just 2.2% of all new passenger cars were electric. This figure has grown to 10.6% in 2021 and sales of new electric cars will increase as the UK approaches the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales. 

Plug-in hybrid and self-charging hybrid cars have a respective 2021 market share of 6.9% and 9.0% in the UK. These cars are currently popular with drivers who want an electrified car with low tailpipe emissions but do not want the range constraints of a pure battery-electric vehicle. 

The sale of new self-charging hybrid cars will end in 2030, as part of the UK Government's step towards net-zero. The sale of some new plug-in hybrid cars, however, will be allowed to continue until 2035.

(Source: SMMT, DfT)  

UK car sales by fuel type 2020

Percentage of new petrol, diesel and electric passenger car sales (source: SMMT)

Fuel type

    • Petrol
    • Mild hybrid petrol
    • Diesel
    • Mild hybrid diesel
    • Pure electric
    • Plug-in hybrid
    • Self-charging hybrid

New car sales

    • 903,961
    • 119,179
    • 261,772
    • 60,953
    • 108,205
    • 66,877
    • 110,117

Market share

    • 55.5%
    • 7.3%
    • 16.0%
    • 3.7%
    • 6.6%
    • 4.1%
    • 6.8%

Used cars sales statistics

The number of used cars sold year-on-year (source: SMMT)

Year

    • 2020
    • 2019
    • 2018
    • 2017
    • 2016

Number of used cars sold (source: SMMT)

    • 6,752,959
    • 7,935,105
    • 7,945,040
    • 8,113,020
    • 8,200,000

Car sales by brand

Best selling car brands in the UK 2021 (Source: SMMT January - November)

Car brand

    • Volkswagen
    • Ford
    • Audi
    • BMW
    • Toyota
    • Mercedes-Benz
    • Kia
    • Vauxhall
    • Hyundai
    • Nissan

Sales

    • 138,972
    • 111,332
    • 110,306
    • 110,157
    • 94,817
    • 92,437
    • 87,914
    • 85,355
    • 64,940
    • 62,129

Car sales statistics worldwide

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption to the global automotive industry. Lockdowns, logistical problems and a limited supply of semiconductors has resulted in a double-digit decline in nine of the largest new car markets in 2020. 

The USA experienced one of the biggest declines in new vehicle sales in 2020, with a year-on-year fall of 2.5 million vehicles. 

China is the largest new car market in the world, with 25 million annual vehicle sales. China was one of the few countries to post a single-digit drop in 2020 with a year-on-year decline of 636,500 vehicles.

China is a global leader in the production of semiconductors which means its local manufacturing base has been able to adapt to the ongoing semiconductor crisis that has brought many vehicle production lines in the Americas and Europe to a juddering halt. 

(Source: JATO, Forbes, SMMT)

Vehicle sales by country 2020

Largest global new vehicle markets by sales (Source: JATO)

Country

    • China
    • USA
    • Japan
    • Germany
    • India
    • France
    • UK
    • Brazil
    • Italy
    • Canada

New vehicle sales

    • 25,239,000
    • 14,551,819
    • 4,541,114
    • 3,178,473
    • 2,769,538
    • 2,048,194
    • 1,923,720
    • 1,952,624
    • 1,533,293
    • 1,553,514

Difference on 2019

    • -2%
    • -15%
    • -11%
    • -19%
    • -18%
    • -24%
    • -28%
    • -27%
    • -27%
    • -20%

Car sales by brand 2020

Total number of global vehicle sales by manufacturer

Manufacturer

    • Toyota
    • Volkswagen Group
    • Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi
    • General Motors
    • Hyundai/Kia
    • Honda
    • Ford
    • Daimler
    • Suzuki

Sales (Source: CarExpert)

    • 9.3 million
    • 9.1 million
    • 7.8 million
    • 6.8 million
    • 6.4 million
    • 6.3 million
    • 4.4 million
    • 4.2 million
    • 2.5 million
    • 2.5 million

Leading manufacturers

Toyota is the leading passenger car manufacturer when it comes to total sales. In 2020, Toyota sold 9.3 million vehicles, followed by Volkswagen (9.1 million) and the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance (7.8 million).

Toyota has an accomplished range of 4x4 and hybrid vehicles. The Hilux pick-up is a global leader when it comes to 4x4 vehicles, while the Corolla is one of the best selling hybrid cars worldwide. 

Volkswagen Group includes Skoda, Audi, SEAT and Volkswagen. VW's growth has traditionally been driven by the Golf hatchback. However, in recent years, the Tiguan and Polo have surpassed the Golf in global sales. Volkswagen’s new electric I.D range is expected to surpass these cars in the years to come.