Automotive industry

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A modern assembly-line Geely assembly line in Beilun, Ningbo.JPG
A modern assembly-line
A video showing new SEAT, Škoda & Volkswagen cars being transported by rail at Kutná Hora město train station in the Czech Republic

The automotive industry comprises a wide range of companies and organizations involved in the design, development, manufacturing, marketing, and selling of motor vehicles. [1] It is one of the world's largest industries by revenue. The automotive industry does not include industries dedicated to the maintenance of automobiles following delivery to the end-user,[ citation needed ] such as automobile repair shops and motor fuel filling stations.


The word automotive comes from the Greek autos (self), and Latin motivus (of motion), referring to any form of self-powered vehicle.[ clarification needed ] This term, as proposed by Elmer Sperry [2] [ need quotation to verify ] (1860-1930), first came into use with reference to automobiles in 1898. [3]


Thomas B. Jeffery automobile factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, c.1916 Thomas B Jeffery Works Drawing.jpg
Thomas B. Jeffery automobile factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, c.1916
Fiat assembly line in 1961 Workers in Fiat factories, Turin.jpg
Fiat assembly line in 1961

The automotive industry began in the 1860s with hundreds of manufacturers that pioneered the horseless carriage. For many decades, the United States led the world in total automobile production. In 1929, before the Great Depression, the world had 32,028,500 automobiles in use, and the U.S. automobile industry produced over 90% of them. At that time, the U.S. had one car per 4.87 persons. [4] After 1945, the U.S. produced about 75 percent of world's auto production. In 1980, the U.S. was overtaken by Japan and then became world leader again in 1994. In 2006, Japan narrowly passed the U.S. in production and held this rank until 2009, when China took the top spot with 13.8 million units. With 19.3 million units manufactured in 2012, China almost doubled the U.S. production of 10.3 million units, while Japan was in third place with 9.9 million units. [5] From 1970 (140 models) over 1998 (260 models) to 2012 (684 models), the number of automobile models in the U.S. has grown exponentially. [6]

Early car manufacturing involved manual assembly by a human worker. The process evolved from engineers working on a stationary car, to a conveyor belt system where the car passed through multiple stations of more specialised engineers. Starting in the 1960s, robotic equipment was introduced to the process, and today most cars are produced largely with automated machinary. [7]


Safety is a state that implies to be protected from any risk, danger, damage or cause of injury. In the automotive industry, safety means that users, operators or manufacturers do not face any risk or danger coming from the motor vehicle or its spare parts. Safety for the automobiles themselves, implies that there is no risk of damage.

Safety in the automotive industry is particularly important and therefore highly regulated. Automobiles and other motor vehicles have to comply with a certain number of regulations, whether local or international, in order to be accepted on the market. The standard ISO 26262, is considered as one of the best practice framework for achieving automotive functional safety. [8]

In case of safety issues, danger, product defect or faulty procedure during the manufacturing of the motor vehicle, the maker can request to return either a batch or the entire production run. This procedure is called product recall. Product recalls happen in every industry and can be production-related or stem from the raw material.

Product and operation tests and inspections at different stages of the value chain are made to avoid these product recalls by ensuring end-user security and safety and compliance with the automotive industry requirements. However, the automotive industry is still particularly concerned about product recalls, which cause considerable financial consequences.


In 2007, there were about 806 million cars and light trucks on the road, consuming over 980 billion litres (980,000,000 m3) of gasoline and diesel fuel yearly. [9] The automobile is a primary mode of transportation for many developed economies. The Detroit branch of Boston Consulting Group predicted that, by 2014, one-third of world demand would be in the four BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India and China). Meanwhile, in the developed countries, the automotive industry has slowed. [10] It is also expected that this trend will continue, especially as the younger generations of people (in highly urbanized countries) no longer want to own a car anymore, and prefer other modes of transport. [11] Other potentially powerful automotive markets are Iran and Indonesia. [12] Emerging automobile markets already buy more cars than established markets. According to a J.D. Power study, emerging markets accounted for 51 percent of the global light-vehicle sales in 2010. The study, performed in 2010 expected this trend to accelerate. [13] [14] However, more recent reports (2012) confirmed the opposite; namely that the automotive industry was slowing down even in BRIC countries. [10] In the United States, vehicle sales peaked in 2000, at 17.8 million units. [15]

World motor vehicle production

World Motor Vehicle Production [16]
Motor Vehicle Prod volume RITA T1-23.svg
Production volume (1000 vehicles)

1960s: Post war increase

1970s: Oil crisis and tighter safety and emission regulation.

1990s: production started in NICs

2000s: rise of China as top producer

Automotive industry crisis of 2008–2010
Motor Vehicle Prod share RITA T1-23.svg
to 1950: USA had produced more than 80% of motor vehicles. [17]

1950s: UK, Germany and France restarted production.

1960s: Japan started production and increased volume through the 1980s. US, Japan, Germany, France and UK produced about 80% of motor vehicles through the 1980s.

1990s: South Korea became a volume producer. In 2004, Korea became No. 5 passing France.

2000s: China increased its production drastically, and became the world's largest producing country in 2009 .

2010s: India overtakes Korea, Canada, Spain to become 5th largest automobile producer.

2013: The share of China (25.4%), India, Korea, Brazil and Mexico rose to 43%, while the share of USA (12.7%), Japan, Germany, France and UK fell to 34%.

2018: India overtakes Germany to become 4th largest automobile producer.
World motor production (1997-2016) World motor production (1997-2016).png
World motor production (1997-2016)

By year


Year Production Change Source
1997 54,434,000 [19]
1998 52,987,000 Decrease2.svg 2.7% [19]
1999 56,258,892 Increase2.svg 6.2% [20]
2000 58,374,162 Increase2.svg 3.8% [21]
2001 56,304,925 Decrease2.svg 3.5% [22]
2002 58,994,318 Increase2.svg 4.8% [23]
2003 60,663,225 Increase2.svg 2.8% [24]
2004 64,496,220 Increase2.svg 6.3% [25]
2005 66,482,439 Increase2.svg 3.1% [26]
2006 69,222,975 Increase2.svg 4.1% [27]
2007 73,266,061 Increase2.svg 5.8% [28]
2008 70,520,493 Decrease2.svg 3.7% [29]
2009 61,791,868 Decrease2.svg 12.4% [30]
2010 77,857,705 Increase2.svg 26.0% [31]
2011 79,989,155 Increase2.svg 3.1% [32]
2012 84,141,209 Increase2.svg 5.3% [33]
2013 87,300,115 Increase2.svg 3.7% [34]
2014 89,747,430 Increase2.svg 2.6% [35]
2015 90,086,346 Increase2.svg 0.4% [36]
2016 94,976,569 Increase2.svg 4.5% [37]
2017 97,302,534 Increase2.svg 2.36% [38]
2018 95,634,593 Decrease2.svg 1.71% [39]
2019 91,786,861 Decrease2.svg 5.2% [40]
2020 77,621,582 Decrease2.svg 16% [41]
Car exports by country (2014) 2014 Cars Countries Export Treemap.png
Car exports by country (2014)

from Harvard Atlas of Economic Complexity

Global automobile import and export in 2011 Global imports and exports of cars.png
Global automobile import and export in 2011

By country

The OICA counts over 50 countries which assemble, manufacture or disseminate automobiles. Of that figure, only 14 countries (boldfaced in the list below) currently possess the capability to design original production automobiles from the ground up. [42] [43]

Top 20 motor vehicle producing countries (2018)
CountryMotor vehicle production (units)
United States
South Korea
United Kingdom
Czech Republic

"Production Statistics". OICA.

By manufacturer

These were the 15 largest manufacturers by production volume in 2017, according to OICA. [18]

1 Toyota Japan10,466,051
2 Volkswagen Group Germany10,382,334
3 Hyundai South Korea7,218,391
4 General Motors United States6,856,880
5 Ford United States6,386,818
6 Nissan Japan5,769,277
7 Honda Japan5,236,842
8 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles a Italy/United States4,600,847
9 Renault France4,153,589
10 Groupe PSA a France3,649,742
11 Suzuki Japan3,302,336
12 SAIC China2,866,913
13 Daimler Germany2,549,142
14 BMW Germany2,505,741
15 Geely China1,950,382

Other rankings

This is the list of the 15 largest publicly-traded car manufacturers by market capitalisation as of 15 May 2021, according to [44]

RankGroupReg. baseMarket cap (US dollars)
1 Tesla United States$568.11 billion
2 Toyota Japan$214.79 billion
3 Volkswagen Germany$146.78 billion
4 Daimler Germany$95.59 billion
5 General Motors United States$81.23 billion
6 BMW Germany$65.82 billion
7 BYD China$62.45 billion
8 Stellantis Netherlands$56.70 billion
9 Volvo Sweden$56.43 billion
10 NIO China$54.75 billion
11 Hyundai South Korea$52.98 billion
12 Honda Japan$51.41 billion
13 Ferrari Italy$49.10 billion
14 Ford United States$47.26 billion
15 Great Wall Motors China$37.10 billion

This is the list of the 10 largest publicly-traded car manufacturers by Revenue as of 15 May 2021, according to

Top 10 largest motor vehicle manufacturers by revenue (2020) [45] [46]
RankGroupCountryRevenue (USD)
1 Volkswagen Germany$260.31 B
2 Toyota Japan$255.99 B
3 Daimler Germany$186.66 B
4 Ford United States$127.14 B
5 Honda Japan$125.03 B
6 General Motors United States$122.84 B
7 BMW Germany$119.09 B
8 Stellantis
Netherlands$104.84 B
9 Hyundai South Korea$94.40 B
10 Nissan Japan$73.92 B

Notable company relationships

Stake holding

It is common for automobile manufacturers to hold stakes in other automobile manufacturers. These ownerships can be explored under the detail for the individual companies.

Notable current relationships include:[ citation needed ]

Joint ventures

China joint venture

Outside China

See also


^a These figures were before the merger of both Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Groupe PSA; the latter of which has merged into Stellantis as of January 2021.

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