Economic and Market Report: state of the EU auto industry – Full-year 2021

This latest edition of ACEA’s Economic and Market Report covers the full year 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 in the EU is projected to grow by 4.0% in 2022 and set to further increase in 2023, albeit only at a moderate pace of 2.8%.
  2. Overall inflation in the EU is predicted to increase from 2.9% in 2021 to 3.9% in 2022, and then to fall to 1.9% in 2023.

Passenger car registrations

  1. In Europe, car registrations went down by 1.6% to reach 14.3 million units in 2021.
  2. Last year, passenger car sales in the US reached 11.9 million units, an increase of 5.5% compared to 2020.
  3. Demand in China in 2021 remained close to 2020 levels, with modest growth of 1.6%.
  4. In 2021, South Korean car sales decreased by 9.5%, with semiconductor shortage weighing down on vehicle production and sales.

Passenger car production

  1. European passenger car production contracted by 5.7% in 2021.
  2. US auto plants manufactured around 6.3 million passenger cars in 2021, up 3.1% compared to 2020.
  3. Driven by Brazil’s output, South America posted growth with car production up 11.2% to reach more than 1.9 million units.
  4. Chinese car production last year totalled 20.7 million units, up 7.1%.
  5. Global car output increased by 2.7% to 63.2 million units in 2021.

Exports and imports of passenger cars

  1. Last year, EU car exports had a total value of €125 billion, up 3.6% compared to 2020.
  2. The value of car imports amounted to approximately €53 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of almost €73 billion for the European Union last year.
  3. The United States maintained its leading position as the main country of origin of EU car imports, and top destination of EU car exports.

Commercial vehicle registrations

  1. 1.8 million commercial vehicles were registered in the EU in 2021, a year-on-year gain of 9.6%.
  2. Last year, EU van sales increased by 8.5% to reach nearly 1.6 million units.
  3. During the same period, 289,316 new trucks were sold across the European Union, up 16.8% compared to 2020.

Commercial vehicle production

  1. Despite ongoing supply chain constraints, commercial vehicle production in Europe expanded by 4.9% in 2021.
  2. North American output reached nearly 4.2 million commercial vehicles, up 9.4% compared to 2020.
  3. Despite production disruptions created by lack of semiconductors, Japan and South Korea increased their full-year output by 4.7% to more than 1.2 million units in 2021.
  4. Chinese commercial vehicle production weakened in 2021, falling by 8.6% to reach 5.5 million units.

Exports and imports of commercial vehicles

  1. Last year, the total value of EU commercial vehicle exports increased slightly (+0.9%), generating a trade surplus of more than €5.8 billion.
  2. The United Kingdom maintained its lead as EU’s main export destination for commercial vehicles in 2021, with a market share of 29.5%.

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

In 2021, global car sales volumes struggled to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, with a worldwide semiconductor shortage putting additional pressure on an already-stressed automobile industry.


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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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