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Automotive industry in Latin America - Statistics & Facts

With global automobile sales averaging 70 million units per year, the automotive industry is among the most important in the world. In Latin America, Mexico and Brazil have the most developed sectors – Mexico produced just shy of four million motor vehicles in 2019, while the production of vehicles in Brazil added up to almost three million units that year. In fact, these two Latin American countries ranked amongst the largest motor vehicle producers worldwide. When it comes to sales, however, the region has struggled since way before the coronavirus pandemic.

A consumer market in crisis

In 2020, the automotive industry took a hard hit following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Latin America, light vehicles sales in the largest markets dropped by at least 30 percent in the first half of 2020, when compared to the same period of the previous year. However, the health crisis was just an additional blowback to a market already in decline.

Sales of new vehicles in Latin America averaged below six million units per year in the second half of the 2010’s, a decrease of around 18 percent when compared to the nearly 7.5 million units sold in the peak of the decade. This behavior has at least some connection to the economic crisis that hit Brazil – the largest market for car sales in the region – during that period. New vehicle sales in Mexico have also followed a similar trend. But perhaps the most extreme case was reported by Argentina. Amidst economic instability and soaring inflation rates, motor vehicles sales in the country dropped by nearly half in 2019, when compared to a year earlier. With this effect aggravated by the pandemic, a regional recovery may be still far in the horizon.

Latin Americans behind Chevrolet's steering wheel

Despite the decline in sales, Latin America still accounts for around three percent of light vehicle sales worldwide. Chevrolet – a division of U.S.-based General Motors – had the best-selling car model in the region in 2019. The brand also led the passenger car market in Brazil. Meanwhile in Colombia, although the brand has been recently overtaken by French manufacturer Renault when it comes to new vehicle sales, Chevrolet stills leads by a large margin the sales of used vehicles in the country. Ford, Volkswagen, and Toyota are also among the brands that stand out as leading players in Latin America.

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Automotive industry in Latin America

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