Data issued by LMC Automotive shows that the global light vehicle market expanded by 5.2% to an estimated 80.9m units in 2012.

According to the LMC data, the 2012 global gain to light vehicle sales was driven mainly by growth in the US (+13.5%), China (+6.2%)  and also a big rebound to vehicle sales in Japan (+27.3%) after the natural disasters of 2011. The main negative last year was Western Europe (-8.6%).

LMC also said that in the month of December the trend of improvement in China and the US continued, while weakness in Western Europe continued to slow the global expansion. It said that its expectation for 2013 is for a slower global growth rate in the 2-3% range.

Sales for the US in 2013 are forecast at nearly 15.1m light vehicles with almost 12.3m retail sales.

LMC said that while Western Europe was weak, Central and East European sales remained solid in December with an annual selling rate of 4.9m units a year. Declines in Turkey and Poland detracted from the total. Russia remained stable, LMC said (see also RUSSIA: Light vehicle market up 11% to new record in 2012).

China sees a strong final quarter

LMC said that according to preliminary data, the December selling rate in China was a brisk 19.9m units a year, little changed from the November selling rate. Thanks to the strong sales in the final quarter of 2012, inventory has reportedly declined. According to LMC, total light vehicle sales in China in 2012 reached a record high of 19.1m units, up 6.2% from 2011.

While the Chinese economy is improving, LMC maintains that vehicle sales growth this year is expected to be less than 10%. A still uncertain global outlook and rising inflation could constrain sales. There is also a risk that the Chinese government will launch stricter measures to limit the number of the vehicles in major cities in order to curb worsening air pollution, LMC warns, implying some risk to its base line projections.

Other Asia

Japan’s market recorded the third consecutive month of the month-over-month gains in December despite the end of the eco-car subsidy in September. The new government has announced a major fiscal stimulus package, which could help boost sales this year, LMC says.

In Korea, the December selling rate is down 6% from November despite that the temporary tax incentives was to expire at the end of 2012. North Korea’s missile launch may have hit confidence, LMC says.

South America

Brazil’s December annual selling rate is estimated at 3.9m units a year, up about 10% from November. The temporary IPI tax cut was originally set to expire at the end of the year, which boosted sales. The tax cut has since been extended and will be phased out this year, LMC says. (See also: BRAZIL: A good 2012 likely to push sales to 4m in 2013.)

In Argentina’s volatile market, the annual selling rate spiked to 970,000 units a year in December after averaging 784,000 units a year during the first 11 months of the year. Nonetheless, total light vehicle sales in 2012 declined by 7% from election-driven robust sales in 2011.

See also: UK: Western European car sales fell by 16.2% in December; off 8% for the year

Sales (units) Selling rate (Units/year)

Dec Dec Percent Year to date Year to date Percent Dec Year to date Year Percent

2012 2011 change 2012 2011 change 2012 2012 2011 change
WORLD 6,859,716 6,772,701 1.3% 80,891,859 76,909,148 5.2% 82,314,063 81,092,975 76,883,183 5.5%
USA 1,353,418 1,240,263 9.1% 14,464,156 12,748,374 13.5% 15,212,752 14,455,261 12,748,374 13.4%
CANADA 108,931 114,258 -4.7% 1,675,508 1,582,660 5.9% 1,541,530 1,681,748 1,582,660 6.3%
WESTERN EUROPE 883,877 1,057,834 -16.4% 13,126,192 14,364,932 -8.6% 13,395,801 13,390,082 14,364,932 -6.8%
EASTERN EUROPE 469,765 488,326 -3.8% 4,902,648 4,709,268 4.1% 4,892,572 4,815,863 4,709,268 2.3%
JAPAN 333,426 341,514 -2.4% 5,262,688 4,134,070 27.3% 4,700,620 5,260,679 4,134,070 27.3%
KOREA 144,159 134,931 6.8% 1,507,214 1,541,403 -2.2% 1,522,977 1,505,668 1,541,403 -2.3%
CHINA 1,802,533 1,664,251 8.3% 19,117,706 17,999,580 6.2% 19,912,490 19,149,733 17,999,580 6.4%
BRAZIL / ARGENTINA 410,331 419,145 -2.1% 4,324,729 4,376,553 -1.2% 4,867,516 4,311,730 4,376,553 -1.5%
OTHER 1,353,275 1,312,179 3.1% 16,511,018 15,452,308 6.9% 16,267,804 16,522,213 15,426,343 7.1%


 Eastern Europe includes Turkey.

 China data includes estimate of light vehicle imports, and excludes heavy vehicles.

 Brazil December 2012 result based on wholesale sales estimates.

 Late reporting countries and estimates are included in "Other".

 The percentage change in the final column compares the average selling rate in the year-to-date with the last full year.