Global automobile sales plunged dramatically in the first half of the year as the coronavirus pandemic kept buyers out of showrooms. The market, which peaked several years ago, dropped to levels not seen since the Great Recession more than a decade ago.
Within this global picture are the distinct markets of internal combustion engines and electric vehicle drivetrains. And even within EVs there are three regional markets: China, Europe, and North America.
First, the total global numbers. Quarterly vehicle sales peaked at the end of 2016 at 22.7 million; last quarter, sales were 14.4 million, not quite two-thirds of what they were at their high.
On a year-on-year basis, sales dropped further — and faster — this year than during the global financial crisis of 2008-09. Sales in the fourth quarter of 2008 were down 21.1 percent from a year earlier; in the first quarter of 2020, they were down 25.3 percent, and were lower still in the second quarter.
Combined, EVs are still only 4.8 percent of total vehicle sales, but their performance stands out because in the first and second quarters they dropped less –just 15 percent — which qualifies as outperforming.
In North America, EV sales fell more than internal combustion vehicle sales; in China, where internal combustion sales actually rose in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, they fell much more (see table, below).
And then there’s Europe — or at least its 16 major markets, not including Moldova, Lichtenstein. Europe had both the largest decline in internal combustion sales, down 56 percent year on year, and a similarly humongous increase in EV sales up 46 percent.
Europe’s sales “exceeded our expectations,” said BloombergNEF. More importantly, “the combination of new stimulus programs, new model launches, and automakers pushing to hit their carbon dioxide