Global Auto Industry in Crisis

Michael Renner | May 21, 2009

Production of passenger cars and light trucks declined from 70.9 million units in 2007 to 68.1 million in 2008, and the London-based IHS Global Insight Automotive Group expects output to drop dramatically to 59.8 million in 2009.1 (See Figure 1.) Sales figures tell a similar story, falling from 69.5 million vehicles in 2007 to 66.3 million in 2008; the number is forecast to sag further to 59.2 million in 2009.2 The share of worldwide production capacities actually used will likely fall from 83 percent in 2007 to 68 percent in 2009.3 As of 2008, Global Insight estimated the global fleet at 619.5 million light-duty vehicles, rising to 637.8 million in 2009.4

Japan was the undisputed leader in light vehicle production in 2008, at 11 million. U.S. output dropped by 2 million to 8.5 million (and may fall as low as 6.3 million in 2009).5 China edged into second place with 8.52 million (with 8.8 million projected in 2009).6 In fourth place is Germany, with 5.8 million vehicles, down from 6 million.7 (See Figure 2.) South Korea, Brazil, France, Spain, Mexico, Canada, India, and Russia account for the remainder of the top 12—which combined represented 81 percent of global light vehicle production in 2008.8

Toyota was the largest producer in 2008, manufacturing some 9.8 million light vehicles.9 Next in line were General Motors (GM, at 8.6 million), Ford and Renault-Nissan (6.9 million each), and Volkswagen-Porsche (6.4 million).10 Hyundai, Honda, Peugeot, Fiat, and Suzuki rounded out the top 10.11

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