January 5, 2014 7:00 am JST

Global new car sales hit estimated record 83 million units in 2013

BEIJING -- Global new car sales topped 83 million units in 2013, up 3% on the year, hitting a record high for four consecutive years, according to estimates by a research firm.

     The Nagoya-based firm Fourin estimates that global new car sales came to approximately 83.8 million units in 2013, an increase of more than 2.3 million units from the 81.46 million units in 2012. The growth is largely attributed to sales growth in China and the U.S., the largest and second-largest auto markets in the world. The company believes that such growth helped offset slumping demand for new cars in Europe and Southeast Asian markets.

     In China, new car sales for 2013 are estimated to have reached around 21.5 million units, a 10% increase from a year earlier. A growing number of Chinese consumers have started buying their own cars even in inland regions, where car sales had been slower than other areas in the country. "China will continue to be the growth engine for global auto markets for the time being," said an official of Ford Motor.

     In the U.S., new car sales are estimated to have grown 7.6% on the year to 15.6 million units in 2013, hitting a new high in six years. The increase is due in part to strong sales of large vehicles, such as pick-up trucks, amid ultra-low interest rates and higher stock prices.

     In Japan, the world's third-biggest auto market, new car sales are forecast to have exceeded 5 million units for the second year in a row, as consumers rushed to buy new cars before the planned sales tax hike to 8% from the current 5% in April.

     By contrast, Germany saw a 4% drop to 29.5 million units compared with a year earlier, falling below the 3 million threshold for the first time in three years. As such, new car sales remained sluggish in Europe last year.

     Similarly, new car sales were weak in Thailand, the biggest car market in Southeast Asia, and sales remained more or less the same as in 2012 in six major Southeast Asian countries. Fourin estimates that India's new car sales dropped by about 5% on the year due to growing concerns over India's economic outlook.

     As for 2014, new car sales will likely slow down in the U.S. as most American car buyers have already replaced their old cars with new ones. Still, the research firm expects that China will continue to boost new car sales this year. The company also forecasts sales growth in Indonesia, Argentina and Chile. As a result, global new car sales are expected to rise to roughly 88 million units this year.