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E-mobility report series:
Electric vehicle outlook 2021 and beyond
February 2021
Market data: All passenger cars
Global sales of passenger cars peaked in 2017, and fell in 2018 and 2019. Before the pandemic, Canalys had already forecast another sales decline in 2020, and further declines over the next decade. COVID-19-related lockdowns and travel restrictions affected the automotive industry terribly in the first half of 2020, and again in parts of the world at the end of 2020. Car sales fell by 14% in 2020, coming in at 66.5 million vehicles, the lowest number of annual sales for nearly a decade. Commercial vehicles are not included.

Lowest annual sales of passenger cars since 2011​

66.5 million passenger cars were sold worldwide in 2020, representing a fall of 14%.

  • Pre-pandemic, passenger car sales were forecast to fall by 3% worldwide in 2020. Sales peaked in 2017.
  • Annual car sales in 2021 will increase in most major markets but will remain below 2019 levels. The 2021 sales forecast is for growth of 5%.
  • New models in 2020 in Europe and the US had pandemic-influenced soft launches without the usual industry or specific launch events.
  • Pent-up demand is released when dealerships reopen, economies restart, travel resumes, and people return to places of work and study.
  • Scrappage schemes, market stimulus plans and purchase incentives, especially for zero and low-emission models, will help 2021 sales.

The passenger car market in China recovered well after COVID-19 restrictions eased.​

  • Passenger car sales in 2020 in China fell by 6%, after a 10% decline in 2019.​
  • Passenger car sales were back on track quickly and grew every month from April to December 2020 (against the same month in 2019) after 21 consecutive months of decline.​
  • 30% of global car sales were in China in 2020, up from 27% of sales in 2019.​
  • Good sales momentum and growth will continue in China in the first half of 2021. Year-on-year growth in the second half of the year will be harder to achieve given the strong sales in the second half of 2020.​
  • The outlook for 2021 in China is sales growth of 6%.​

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