Based on strong growth in production and sales of automobiles in the first quarter of 2017 in most of the key regions around world, there is optimism that this year will see continued gains for the global automotive industry. According to Wards Auto, some 23.92 million vehicles were sold globally in the three months to March 2017, up 5.3% on the same period in 2016.
A surprising result came from South America, where many countries continue to suffer from economic downturns. Despite this, total South American vehicle sales soared by 14.1% to 339,000 units in March 2017, bringing a first quarter total of 899,000 units, up 9% on the same quarter of 2016. Vehicle production in Brazil, the continents’ biggest car producer, was up by 24% to 609,844 units in the period.
North American vehicle sales in the first quarter came in below expectations, dipping 0.5% to 4.92 million units. However, total car and light vehicle production in the region was up 1.5% in the last quarter to 4.615 million units with Mexico gaining by 18.4% to reach 996,273. Both the USA and Canada saw declines in vehicle production with the US slipping by 1.9% to 3,017 million and Canada down 4.5% to 601,443.
The Western European car market ended the first quarter up more than 7% on the same period in 2016, recording 3.9 million new registrations. All of the five largest individual markets expanded, with Italy enjoying the strongest growth at 18%. Double digit growth was also recorded in Spain (+13%) and Germany (+11%), with the United Kingdom up 8% and France 7%. Total light vehicle production in the EU was up 3% to 5,016 million units in the first quarter of 2017.
Russia vehicle sales grew by 8.4% in March 2017 to 145,000 units, pushing the year-to-date total just ahead of the same period in 2016. Russian vehicle production was up 1% to 322,464 units in the quarter.
In the Asia-Pacific region, sales for the first quarter were 6.9%, ahead of the same period in 2016, with 11.37 million units or 47.5% of the global market. China performed strongly again in the first quarter with production and sales of passenger cars rising to 7.133 million and 7,002 million respectively, representing increases of 8% and 7% year-on-year. Japan reported a healthy increase of 7.9% in passenger car production in the first quarter to reach 2,200 million units; with total vehicle production, including trucks and buses, up 6.5% to 2,545 million.
Vehicle sales in Japan increased by almost 8% in the quarter to March, reaching over 1.3 million. In India, sales of passenger cars were up 11%, when compared with the same period last year, at 803,200 vehicles. In the reporting period April 2016–March 2017 production of passenger cars and commercial vehicles in India increased by 5.8% to 4,502 million of which 3,791 million were cars.