Global automotive market Q1 2020

Shanghai (China), Bengaluru (India), Singapore, Reading (UK) and Portland (US) – Thursday, 23 April 2020

Canalys: Global car sales will fall 14% in 2020, but COVID-19 will force change

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major negative impact on the already struggling auto market. Canalys forecasts that sales of new cars in 2020 will fall 14% worldwide compared with 2019.


2020 sales (million)

2019 sales (million)

Annual growth





Rest of APAC








Latin America




North America








The automotive supply chain was hit hard in early 2020 as COVID-19 emerged in China and production of key components stopped. COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in mid-March and lockdowns, with varying restrictions, were enforced. This halted manufacturing, distribution and consumer demand, and significantly reduced car use. While it is possible to buy a new car online, few people will without viewing and taking a test drive. Dealerships have inventory but most are closed. Even in China, where dealerships have started to reopen, customer traffic is much lower than normal.

“There were low double-digit sales declines in all the major markets in Q1 2020. Q2 will be worse as restrictions will be in place around the world for much, and in some countries, the entire quarter. The decline will continue, but will ease, in the months to follow as restrictions gradually lift. But with rising unemployment and a looming global recession, the recovery will be slow, and it will not be a full recovery. Canalys forecasts that sales will not exceed the heights of 2017 in the coming years,” said Chris Jones, Chief Analyst for the automotive sector at Canalys.

“While the automotive industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, it had not been growing in the last two years. Though the virus is wreaking devastation on people’s personal lives and the global economy, Canalys believes that some positives will emerge in transportation as a result. There are opportunities for safety and driver assistance technology, electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and urban mobility services,” said Jones.

“Momentum was already building in Electric Vehicle (EV) sales and the charging infrastructure was expanding. Canalys expects demand for EVs to increase further with increased incentives to buy and improved consumer sentiment toward zero emission transportation.”

The near-term outlook for the widespread deployment of Autonomous vehicles (AVs) in an on-demand mobility-as-a-service context has also improved. “Governments had been slow to make decisions and pass laws regarding safety and the testing and deployment of AVs. But Canalys expects faster decision-making as an outcome of the pandemic with the aim to have safe, electric, connected AVs transporting people and goods in the next few years,” added Jones.

In addition, the world is experiencing:

  • Safer roads - according to the World Health Organization (WHO), each year over 1.3 million people die and up to 50 million people are injured as a result of road accidents. While it will be some time before figures for 2020 are known, they will undoubtedly reveal the biggest annual decline ever recorded. Road traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for children and young adults under 30 years old worldwide.
  • No congestion -fewer cars on the road and fewer accidents have dramatically reduced congestion, time wasted and the resulting economic cost.
  • Cleaner air - fewer cars on the road, especially those in congested urban areas, has had a noticeably positive impact on air quality, as seen in many before and after lockdown satellite images. According to the WHO, over 4 million people die every year as a result of exposure to outdoor air pollution.
  • Steps to improve urban planning - the pandemic and the eerily quiet streets have given cities the opportunity to reset and expedite plans to reduce car use. In cities such as Budapest, Bogotá, Mexico City, Milan and Portland, cycling networks and pedestrian-only spaces have been expanded to reclaim street space previously given to passenger cars.

“The big question is will these visible improvements last beyond the pandemic, or will we return, in a bid to get back normality, to our old transport habits?”

*Data tracked excludes Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs).

For more information, please contact:

Canalys China
Johnny Xie: +86 159 2128 2961

Canalys India
Rushabh Doshi: +91 99728 54174

Canalys Singapore
Jermaine Tan: +65 9798 6301

Canalys UK
Chris Jones: +44 7867 389 727

Canalys USA
Marcy Ryan: +1 650 862 4299

About Canalys

Canalys is an independent analyst company that strives to guide clients on the future of the technology industry and to think beyond the business models of the past. We deliver smart market insights to IT, channel and service provider professionals around the world. We stake our reputation on the quality of our data, our innovative use of technology and our high level of customer service.

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 Global automotive market Q1 2020


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