Demand for Passenger Cars and Light Commercial Vehicles reaches new record high

Global passenger car sales rose by 7.2% to 66.6 million vehicles in 2012, exceeding the previous record achieved in 2011. All regions contributed to this success, with the exception of Western Europe. In particular, double-digit growth rates in the markets of North America and in the Asia-Pacific region bolstered this development. Demand in South America reached an all-time high. New vehicle sales also rose in Central and Eastern Europe, but did not reach the levels seen in 2007 and 2008. South Africa continued the upward trend of the past two years. Global passenger car production rose by 6.0% to 70.5 million units in the reporting period.

Sector-specific environment

The established passenger car markets turned in a mixed performance in fiscal year 2012. While some industrialized countries were negatively affected by the debt crisis and its repercussions, others – including Germany – profited from the still robust demand in some growth markets in the first half of the year.

The extensive development of the major markets in China and Brazil, the expansion of activities in India and the ability to meet demand in Russia are becoming increasingly important for the automotive industry.

Many Asian and African markets are showing signs of further easing in trade. However, it cannot be ruled out that these countries will fall back on protectionist measures in the event of another global economic slump.

Europe/Remaining markets

As expected, new passenger car registrations in Western Europe declined year-on-year to 11.7 million vehicles (–8.2%), the lowest overall market volume recorded since 1993. The sharp market declines, particularly in the Southern European markets, were mainly attributable to the effects of the sovereign debt crisis, the weak state of the economy, rising unemployment and the ensuing uncertainty among market participants. Demand slumped in the volume markets of Italy (–19.9%), France (–14.1%) and Spain (–13.4%). By contrast, in the United Kingdom, high demand from private customers led to market growth of 5.3%. At 54.9%, the market share of diesel vehicles (passenger cars) in Western Europe in 2012 nearly reached the previous year’s record high.

The passenger car markets in Central and Eastern Europe continued their recovery in the reporting period, with an increase of 5.9% to 3.9 million units. As in the previous two years, the main growth driver was the Russian market, where vehicle sales fell only slightly short of the record level seen in 2008, rising 10.9% to 2.7 million units. After the government support measures came to an end, the main beneficiaries were foreign suppliers with Russian production facilities. At 0.7 million passenger cars, the Central European EU states recorded a lower market volume (–3.7%). The passenger car markets developed positively in Hungary (+6.7%), the Baltic States (+2.4%), Slovakia (+2.0%) and the Czech Republic (+0.4%). By contrast, new passenger car registrations were down in part significantly year-on-year in Romania (–25.6%), Slovenia (–16.8%), Bulgaria (–4.3%) and Poland (–0.4%).

In Turkey, vehicle sales declined to 549 thousand (–7.4%) in 2012, largely due to weaker demand in the first half of the year.

New registrations in the South African market rose 11.0% to 443 thousand units in the reporting period. This trend was positively impacted by better financing options.


In Germany, new passenger car registrations were down slightly year-on-year. The 2.9% decline to 3.1 million vehicles is entirely attributable to buyer reluctance among private customers. The rising uncertainty about global economic developments affected demand in the second half of the year, in particular. The market volume for light commercial vehicles also failed to reach the previous year’s level. Overall, new registrations declined by 6.2% to 226 thousand vehicles. The 2012 domestic production and export figures were also lower than in the prior-year period. Passenger car production declined by 3.7% to 5.4 million vehicles, while passenger car exports decreased by 2.6% to 4.1 million units. This was mainly due to substantially lower exports to the eurozone as a result of the ongoing recessionary trends.

North America

In the North American market, demand for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles (up to 6.35 tonnes) rose sharply in the reporting period. The 12.4% increase to 17.2 million units led to the best sales figures for the past five years. In the USA, sales rose by 13.4% to 14.5 million vehicles, largely due to higher replacement demand and favorable lending conditions. The US market registered the highest absolute increases in unit sales worldwide in 2012, but was still well below the pre-crisis levels achieved

in 2007. In Canada, the overall market volume was higher than in the previous year, up 5.7% to 1.7 million vehicles in the reporting period. The Mexican market recorded 10.4% growth in new registrations to approximately 1.0 million units.

South America

During the reporting period, demand for passenger cars in South America exceeded the previous all-time high recorded in 2011. In Brazil, new passenger car registrations rose 7.7% to 2.9 million vehicles. The new record figure is mainly attributable to a temporary tax cut. Only vehicles produced in Brazil benefited from this measure, so the contribution made by imports declined sharply in the second half of 2012. At 442 thousand units, Brazil’s vehicle exports were much lower than in the previous year (–20.1%). This decline was mainly caused by the lower exports to Argentina.

In the Argentinian automotive market, demand was down 5.4% on the previous year’s record, at 587 thousand units. This is primarily attributable to the import restrictions imposed by the Argentinian government to protect domestic industry, which made imports considerably more difficult and caused them to decline steeply.


Alongside North America, the Asia-Pacific region was the main driver of global demand for cars in 2012. The number of new passenger car registrations in the region rose by 13.3% to an all-time high of 25.7 million vehicles. In China, the market volume amounted to 13.5 million passenger cars in 2012. The high growth rate of 9.3% was largely due to foreign brands.

Growth in the Indian passenger car market again accelerated in the reporting period, up 11.1% to 2.5 million vehicles. This new high was recorded despite high interest rates, rising fuel costs and weaker economic growth than in the previous year. The Indian automotive industry benefited in particular from the much wider range of diesel models on offer.

The Japanese passenger car market recorded a particularly large increase in new registrations, which rose 29.5% to 4.6 million vehicles. The positive development is attributable in particular to the previous year’s weak overall market as a consequence of the natural disasters, as well as government subsidy programs for energy efficient vehicles.


As industrial goods, commercial vehicles are influenced by the general economic environment, which means that the market is highly cyclical. Although volumes are significantly lower, the complexity of the trucks and buses range even exceeds that of passenger cars, since they are produced in accordance with the customers’ requirements. The priorities for commercial vehicle customers are overall running costs, vehicle reliability and the service provided.

In fiscal year 2012, global demand for mid-sized and heavy trucks with a gross weight of more than six tonnes declined overall. A total of 2.5 million vehicles were sold worldwide, representing a decrease of 8.9%. The growth markets of China, Brazil and India fell significantly short of the previous year’s level in some areas due to the general economic and regulatory conditions. In Europe, the continuing sovereign debt crisis and weak economic situation negatively impacted demand for trucks and buses. In contrast to the global trend, sales in the USA and Russia were up significantly year-on-year.

In Western Europe, vehicle sales declined by 10.1% to a total of 236 thousand units due to the uncertainty caused by the sovereign debt crisis and the weak state of the economy.

Central and Eastern Europe recorded extremely high growth in the mid-sized and heavy trucks segments. A total of 175 thousand new vehicles were sold in the reporting period, surpassing the prior-year figure by 23.9%. The strong economic situation in Russia, the largest market in Eastern Europe, led to a 23.3% rise in demand. However, the market there slowed down in the second half of the year after the introduction of a new recycling fee for vehicles.

The sales figures for mid-sized and heavy trucks in North America rose by 11.9% to 427 thousand units in 2012. Of this figure, 340 thousand vehicles were sold in the US market. Despite the economic uncertainty that took hold in the second half of the year and the ensuing decline in incoming orders, the truck market grew 10.9% year-on-year.

Vehicle sales in South America declined in 2012. At 183 thousand units, vehicle sales were down 18.0% on the previous year. Brazil, the continent’s largest market, declined considerably compared with 2011 due to the introduction of the new Euro 5 emission standard and the weak economic performance. Truck sales recorded a 19.6% decline to 133 thousand vehicles.

With the exception of the Chinese market, the Asia-Pacific region almost matched the prior-year sales levels in fiscal year 2012. New registrations amounted to 533 thousand vehicles.

The world’s largest truck market, China, significantly underperformed the previous year’s figure in 2012 due to weaker economic growth, a slower rise in investments and lower consumer demand. A total of 916 thousand units were delivered, 22.0% fewer than in 2011.

In India, the high level of the previous year was not matched in 2012 due to the slowdown in economic growth. At 265 thousand units, sales of mid-sized and heavy trucks were 15.3% lower year-on-year.

In fiscal year 2012, the global market for buses recorded an increase against the previous year. Western Europe was the only region to see a decline in bus sales in 2012. By contrast, China, the world’s largest bus market, registered significant growth mainly as a result of the rising demand for coaches.


The markets for power engineering are subject to differing regional and economic influences. Consequently, their business growth trends are generally independent of each other.

In the area of shipbuilding, the high, albeit declining number of deliveries further increased the excess capacities in the merchant fleet. The resulting decline in shipping rates combined with high operating and fuel costs led to lower orders for new merchant ships. Ongoing difficulties in ship financing exacerbated this trend. By contrast, orders for offshore and special ships remained buoyant. The special market for government vessels also performed well.

With moderate economic growth and global demand for energy still high, the market for decentralized diesel and gas engine power plants slowed down slightly in 2012, although growth remained relatively high. While there was a slowdown in the diesel and oil fired power plants market, as expected, orders for gas fired power plants increased, confirming the trend towards this type of power plant.

Orders for new compressors and turbines declined slightly due to the weaker economic growth. Although there was a high level of interest from customers, economic uncertainties and difficult financing conditions led to order placement delays.

Industrial facilities where turbomachinery, turbo gear units and slide bearings are used still have a significant investment requirement. Oil and gas investments remained high due to the rise in oil prices.

The development of offshore wind energy has fallen well short of expectations so far. Technical problems, particularly as regards transmission of power to the mainland, and difficult financing conditions have delayed the construction of new wind farms.


Global demand for automotive-related financial services remained high in the reporting period. Customers are paying closer attention to the total cost of mobility and are increasingly deciding just to use a car, rather than actually buying one. In view of this, new mobility services such as car sharing are gaining in importance.

The European markets experienced higher demand for captive automotive-related financial services in 2012, despite a decline in new car sales. The close cooperation between vehicle manufacturers and their financial service providers, which produced attractive, customer-oriented campaigns, proved an effective growth driver.

The leasing sector in Germany continued to expand in both the commercial vehicle and passenger car segments in fiscal year 2012.

In North America, demand for financial services stabilized at a high level. In the USA, the market for financing and leasing was well diversified: demand for new vehicle financing from captive financial service providers was still high despite intense competition from noncaptive banks. Demand for financial services continued to rise in Mexico.

This was mainly driven by the stable lending conditions and interest rates, as well as growing interest in modular mobility products.

The Brazilian market continued its growth trajectory in the reporting period, strengthened by an increase in retail lending. As in the previous year, the rise in individual mobility needs led to substantial sales growth of Consorcio, a lottery-style financing product. In Argentina, demand for automotive financial services increased amid the weaker economic growth.

The market for financial services in the Asia-Pacific region performed very well in 2012. In China, there is further potential to acquire new customers for automotive-related financing, as at the moment only around 15% of vehicle purchases are loan-financed. Higher domestic demand in Japan positively impacted financial services sales volumes. Demand for automotive financial services continued to rise in India.

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