Source: International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers,
Automobile Production, Selected Countries, 1950-2016 (in millions)
The second half of the 20th century has seen a major shift in car production. In 1950, the United States accounted for more than 80% of the global car production, which excludes commercial vehicle production. However, this share declined to about 6.5% in 2012, reflecting a loss of competitiveness of the American car manufacturing system. The United States, even if it represents the largest car market in the world, has been thoroughly motorized. This implies that the American market is mainly one of replacement with acute competition between manufacturers for market share. Roughly the same number of cars was produced in the United States during the 1990s than during the 1950s.
In the 1960s, two major players in the car industry emerged; Japan and Germany. By 1990, they respectively accounted for 27.4% and 12.7% of the global car production. However, like the United States, the market share of Japan and Germany declined to 10.5% and 8.0% of the global car production in 2016. This underlines that a growing share of car manufacturing is taking place in newly industrialized economies, but the main consumption market still remains the developed world and under the control of American, Japanese and German car manufacturers. Car manufacturing in China has experienced a spectacular growth to reach 33.9% of the global production in 2016. The financial crisis of 2008 had a substantial impact on global car production with production in the United States, Japan and Germany plummeting. However, production recovered afterwards, in part of latent demand in some advanced economies (consumers often postpone the purchase of a vehicle during a recession). Still, North America, Western Europe and Japan are replacement markets, implying that the majority of car sales are for people replacing their existing car. Since 2005, China has been the most important driver of the growth in global car production, accounting for 78% of the 26 million additional production. This is indicative of a fast motorization of the economy and rapid highway construction.