Economic and Market Report: state of the EU auto industry – First three quarters of 2021

The latest edition of ACEA’s Economic and Market Report covers the first three quarters of 2021, providing a detailed overview of passenger car and commercial vehicle registrations, production and trade, both in Europe and in key markets around the world.

The 26-page Economic and Market Report contains a wealth of information and can be downloaded for free by clicking here.

Key takeaways

EU economic outlook

  1. GDP growth in the EU is projected to be 5.0% in 2021, with consumer spending fuelled by excess savings accumulated during the lockdown period.
  2. EU unemployment is expected to decrease from 7.1% this year to 6.5% in 2023.
  3. After staying low for years, inflation in the European Union is set to remain above 2% this year and next, largely due to the strong effect of higher oil prices.

Passenger car registrations

  1. In Europe, passenger car registrations went up by 8.0% to 11 million units during the first nine months of the year.
  2. Through the first three quarters of 2021, demand in North America was mainly driven by the 16.3% increase in US car sales.
  3. The Chinese car market totalled 13.9 million units (+5.4%) from January to September 2021, with recovery momentum weakening later in the year.
  4. South Korean car sales decreased by 8.2% during this nine-month period.

Passenger car production

  1. EU car output increased by only 3.1% in the first nine months of the year to reach 7.6 million cars built, which is still 3 million units less than 2019 pre-crisis volumes.
  2. US auto plants manufactured approximately 4.8 million passenger cars from January to September, or 10.8% more than during the same period in 2020.
  3. In the first nine months of 2021, Brazil posted strong growth with car production up 16.2% to reach more than 1.2 million units.
  4. Chinese car production in January-September this year totalled 14 million units, up 10.2% compared to the year before.
  5. Global car output increased by 8.9% to 45.6 million units between January and September.

Exports and imports of passenger cars

  1. Eight months into the year, EU car exports represented a total value of €80 billion, up 16.4% compared to the same period in 2020.
  2. Imports of cars amounted to €34 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of almost €50 billion for the European Union this year to date.
  3. The United States maintained its leading position as the main country of origin of EU car imports with a 17.6% value market share.

Commercial vehicle registrations

  1. 1,436,934 commercial vehicles were registered in the EU during the nine-month period, a year-on-year gain of 19.1%.
  2. Over the first three quarters of 2021, EU van sales increased by 18.7% to reach nearly 1.2 million units.
  3. From January to September, 217,000 new trucks were sold across the European Union, up 23.4% compared to the same period in 2020.

Commercial vehicle production

  1. Despite ongoing supply chain constraints, commercial vehicle production in Europe is set to expand 7% in 2021.
  2. North American output is expected to total 4.2 million commercial vehicles, up 9.7% compared to 2020.
  3. In Japan and South Korea, full-year production is expected to drop by 4.8% to 1.3 million units.
  4. Chinese commercial vehicle output will weaken in 2021, falling by 12.6% to reach 5.2 million units.

Exports and imports of commercial vehicles

  1. Between January and August 2021, the total value of EU commercial vehicle exports strongly increased (+14.3%), generating a trade surplus of more than €3.6 billion.
  2. The value of US-built commercial vehicles exported to the European Union declined by 15.4% during the eight-month period.

Should you have any questions about this Economic and Market Report, please don’t hesitate to contact the ACEA statistics department.

EU car output increased by only 3.1% in the first nine months of 2021 to reach 7.6 million cars built, which is still 3 million units less than 2019 pre-crisis volumes.


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This information was presumed to be correct at the time of publication. However, ACEA is not responsible for any inconsistencies or errors in the data.

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