Automotive markets

Global demand for cars remained at a very high level in the year under review, but actually decreased slightly by about 1 % compared with the previous year. The traditional sales markets in Western Europe and the United States have now fully recovered from the considerable volume losses suffered as a result of the financial crisis and have recently been moving only sideways. The Chinese car market weakened noticeably as the year progressed, with full-year demand declining slightly. The markets of the other emerging economies as a whole were close to their prior-year level. (See graphic B.06)

Daimler AR2018 B.06 Global automotive markets

Passenger car sales in the whole of Europe were at about the prior-year level. Demand in Western Europe also remained at the level of 2017. This easing up can be attributed in part to the fact that the market volume had meanwhile regained a high level. In addition, supply bottlenecks caused by the conversion to the new test procedure for vehicle certification (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure – WLTP) had a negative impact on passenger car sales during the last four months of the year. Demand in the German car market was no higher than in the previous year, while demand in France increased by approximately 3 %. The UK car market, however, contracted at a rate of about 7 %. Total car sales in Eastern Europe remained at about the prior-year level, thanks to a significant increase in demand in the EU countries of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in Russia. Sales in Turkey were down sharply, however, by more than 30 %.

Thanks to a favorable overall economic environment, the market volume for cars and light trucks in the United States remained more or less unchanged at a very high level, with unit sales totaling more than 17 million vehicles. The SUV trend continued unabated, with sales of such vehicles rising significantly in the year under review. Sales of traditional sedans, on the other hand, once again decreased significantly.

Car sales in China fell slightly for the first time in decades. This was due on the one hand to the discontinuation of the government tax incentives that had supported car sales in previous years. On the other hand, the growing trade dispute with the United States led to uncertainty among consumers, causing them to postpone vehicle purchases in some cases. The second half of the year was particularly weak, and full-year sales ended up decreasing by approximately 4 %.

Demand for cars in Japan remained more or less at the same solid level as in the prior year. Sales in India increased slightly, as the Indian car market continued its expansion of recent years. The Brazilian car market continued to recover in the year under review. The initial market volume was low in Brazil, but the country recorded a double-digit increase in unit sales.

Demand for medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks developed positively overall in markets relevant to our operations. The North American market benefited from the strong growth of the US economy and the vibrant development of corporate investment. Sales of Class 6 to 8 trucks increased by just over 20 %.

Despite the somewhat less dynamic overall economic development in the EU30 region (European Union, Switzerland and Norway), the truck market there remained robust, with sales increasing moderately. Developments varied among the individual markets. Demand for trucks rose slightly in Germany and substantially in France, for example. However, sales in the United Kingdom decreased relative to the previous year, as had been expected. Total truck sales in the EU countries of Central and Eastern Europe increased significantly. Despite disappointingly weak economic growth in Brazil, truck sales in that country increased by nearly 50 % from the low level of the previous year. The Turkish truck market recorded a significant double-digit decrease in sales, primarily due to the country’s economic difficulties. The Russian truck market lost most of its momentum as the year progressed; the latest estimates indicate that sales were only slightly above the prior-year level.

Developments in Daimler’s most important Asian markets were varied. The Japanese market for light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks remained solid, with sales only slightly below the previous year’s level. Demand for trucks in India recovered from the negative effects of regulatory measures introduced in the prior year, and the Indian market for medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks recorded a significant double-digit increase in sales as a result. The truck market in China developed better than expected and roughly maintained the extraordinarily high sales volume of 2017.

Demand for vans continued to develop positively in the EU30 region in 2018. The market volume for mid-size and large vans increased by 5 % and demand for mid-size pickups rose by 7 %. The market for small vans was at the prior-year level. Also in Germany, sales in the combined segment for mid-size and large vans increased by 6 %. The market for large vans in the United States expanded slightly in the year under review. Demand in the mid-size segment of the van market that we serve in China increased slightly. Market volume for large vans in Latin America rose significantly from the low level of the prior year.

Market volume for buses in the EU30 region was slightly above the high level of the previous year. The situation in Latin America (excluding Mexico) improved due to the market recovery in Brazil, although growth in the region was slowed by a sharp market contraction in Argentina. As a result of the ongoing difficult economic situation in Turkey, the market volume for buses there once again decreased significantly compared with the previous year.

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