How did COVID-19 impact new car sales around the world?

James McCay

Oct 28, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic forced countries around the world into lockdown, with many nations implementing restrictions on how far you could travel.

Unsurprisingly, these restrictions and widespread economic uncertainty have led to a downturn in the number of new cars sold globally. But just how badly were new car sales affected by COVID-19, and which country was the hardest hit?

Join us as we take a drive through some Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) data to see what surprises 2020 had in store for new car sales across the globe.

Which country was the hardest hit by COVID-19?

Almost every one of the 30 countries that we looked at from the OECD saw car sales (specifically new passenger cars registered for the first time) decline in 2020. Prior to 2020, most of them had been experiencing growth or just minor falls. For three countries, however, the pandemic just exacerbated some already significant declines.

 

One nation that bucked this downwards COVID trend was Turkey, who showed a significant recovery on 2019’s figures. Turkey was going through a 26.5% decline in 2019 (in comparison to 2018), but in 2020, new car registrations grew by 55.6% in comparison to 2019! This was largely due to the nation easing lockdowns in June 2020 and providing loans and other economic stimulus to encourage spending. 4

The results of COVID on new car registrations across the globe

Looking at 2020’s changes to new car registrations, we can visualise the grim impact of the virus on this part of the car industry.

YoY % change to car registrations (2019-2020)

Source: Passenger car registrations. OECD Data, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2021. Data rounded down to one decimal point.

New car registration trends over the past five years

When analysing COVID’s impact on new car registrations, it’s important to look to the past to see whether these countries were already experiencing a steady decline that preceded a COVID-driven downturn, or if their car markets were more volatile and hard to predict.

Looking at data between 2015 and 2020, only two countries experienced drops in every one of those years: Australia and the USA. Every other country saw annual growth in new car sales at least once.

Source: Passenger car registrations. OECD Data, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2021.

Country by country visualisation

Click through the tabs below to see each country’s data.

These visualisations were obtained from the OECD and represent the number of new privately owned passenger cars registered for the first time or commercial cars registered to the authorities. This is a strong indicator of new car sales and is measured by comparing growth to the previous year expressed as a percentage change.

Data set: Passenger car registrations. OECD Data, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2021.

Source

  1. FCAI releases May 2020 new vehicle sales statistics. Peter Griffin, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. 2020.
  2. Coronavirus: a challenging outlook for foreign investment. InvestChile, Government of Chile. 2020.
  3. Passenger car registrations. OECD Data, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2021.
  4. Turkey’s Effective Fight Against Coronavirus. Directorate of Communications, Presidency of the Republic of Turkey, Government of Turkey. 2020.

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