Disclaimer: This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation (at no cost to you) when you click on links to those products. Read our Disclaimer Policy for more information.
The automotive industry generates trillions of dollars in revenue annually, leading to billions in profits. But most of this cash flows to just a handful of companies, with the remnants scattered about to niche and high-end manufacturers. However, the exact division of revenue fluctuates frequently as customer tastes change, new vehicles emerge, and companies buy each other out in the quest for efficiency and dominance.
As such, in any given year, determining the largest car manufacturers in the world is a struggle. But 2021 was a year like no other, as the aftershocks of the pandemic rattled the auto industry. The culprit is easy to pinpoint: the global semiconductor shortage, ironically kicked off by the same industry now clamoring to meet demand.
Add to this volatile mix a new merger and determining 2021’s top ten car manufacturers is more difficult than ever. But that doesn’t mean we won’t give it our best go.
Key Facts & Findings
- Thanks to the global chip shortage, car manufacturers saw production decline against soaring demand in 2021, leading to a heated market despite record-low inventories
- Several of the largest car manufacturers (including GM, Honda, and Nissan) reported plunging sales throughout the year as their inventory buckled
- Toyota managed its inventory better than most manufacturers, leading it to claim the title of the largest car manufacturer in the world with 9.6 million units sold in 2021
- After Toyota, Volkswagen, GM, and Hyundia/Kia round out the top four (well, technically five) largest manufacturers in the world
- When you look at regional production values, China manufactures the most vehicles annually, followed by the United States and Germany
Largest Car Manufacturers Worldwide
|Ranking||Company||Brand and Subsidiaries||# Cars Sold in 2021|
|#1||Toyota||Toyota; Daihatsu Motor Co.; Hino Motors Ltd.; Lexus||9.6 Million|
|#2||Volkswagen||Volkswagen; Audi; Porsche; Lamborghini; Bentley; Ducati||8.9 Million|
|#3||General Motors||GMC; Chevrolet; Buick; Cadillac; Wuling Motors; Baojun||7.2 - 7.7 Million*|
|#4||Hyundai Motor Co. & Kia||Hyundai; Kia||6.7 Million **|
|#5||Nissan||Nissan; Infiniti||3.7-4.2 million|
|#6||Ford||Ford; Lincoln||3.4 - 3.7 Million|
|#7 Honda Group||Honda Group||Honda; Acura||4.5 Million|
|#8||Stellantis||Fiat; Dodge; Jeep; Maserati Chrysler; Peugeot; Citroën; Opel||4.2 - 4.3 Million ***|
|#9||Renault||Renault; Dacia; Lada||2.7 Million|
|#10||BMW Group||BMW; Rolls Royce; MINI||2.5 Million|
Note: Some companies have yet to release their total global sales numbers for 2021. These numbers may be estimates based on existing sales numbers and are subject to change.
*These numbers include vehicles sold by GM Group partner SAIC-GM-Wuling
**Hyundai maintains a majority stake in Kia Corporation
***Stellantis was formed in 2021 as the result of a merger between Fiat-Chrysler and PSA Group
>> More: See the Best Auto Loan Rates
Who Is the Biggest Car Manufacturer in the World?
Toyota is the largest car manufacturer in the world by vehicle sales, rolling out nearly 9.6 million vehicles in 2021. Toyota rose to the top of the list in 2020, overthrowing Volkswagen as the reigning king. Volkswagen’s global sales fell a further 4.5% in 2021, giving Toyota the opportunity to take the top spot once again.
Does Europe or the United States Produce More Cars?
The EU registered around 10.8 million new vehicles in 2020 and 15.5 million in 2019. However, the EU also imports some 3.7 million units annually, dropping their production closer to 7.1 and 11.8 million, respectively. Germany alone accounts for over a third of Europe’s total production.
By contrast, the United States produced roughly8.8 million vehicles in 2020 and 10.9 million units in 2019.
Does Europe or Asia Manufacture More Cars?
China alone produces more cars than all of Europe combined, sending out 25-26 million units each year between 2019 and 2021. Additionally, Japan produced over 8 million vehicles in 2020, while South Korea added another 3.5 million to the mix.
Does Asia or the United States Manufacture More Automobiles?
China produces over double (and even triple) the number of vehicles that the United States does each year.
Measuring the biggest car manufacturers in the world isn’t easy – but we gave it a good whack. Using car sales numbers gives us a rough estimation of the number of cars a company produces. New car registrations provide similar metrics for individual countries and regions.
To find these numbers, we scoured each company’s official statements, investor relationships reports, and published metrics. In some cases, we used a company’s monthly sales to fill in the missing pieces (typically December’s numbers) and provide an annual total.
Bottom Line: Biggest Car Manufacturers in the World
Throwing together a list of the world’s largest car manufacturers is a tricky business in the best of times. Throw in mergers, subsidiaries, and a global pandemic, and measuring individual output is that much harder.
But in our case, we made it easy by sticking to the basics.
And in 2021, the largest car manufacturer is Toyota by a mile. (Or nearly a million, as the case may be.)