Global car sales – top 10 as Toyota takes gold

Toyota retained the top spot in the 2021 sales race and increased its lead over second-placed Volkswagen.

The Mercedes-Benz group dropped out of the top 10, while rival BMW returned to the rankings and Suzuki moved up one spot.

Thanks to a decline at GM, Hyundai and Stellantis also gained a place in the charts.

1 Toyota, with 10,495,548 sales, up 11.8%.

2 Volkswagen Group. with 8,610,100 sales, down 5.5%.

3 Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance, with 7,680,014, down 1.3%.

4 Hyundai Motor Group, with 6,667,085, up 5%.

5 Stellantis, with 6,583,269, up 5.2%.

6 General Motors, with 6,291,999, down 7.9%.

7 Honda, with 4,121,000, down 6.5%.

8 Ford Motor Company, with 3,942,000, down 5.9%.

9 Suzuki, with 2,763,000, up 12.9%.

10 BMWs, with 2,521,514, up 8.5%.

Pandemic impact

For the second consecutive year, these sales figures have been strongly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While in 2020 lockdowns halted production and impeded sales, in 2021 global supply chain issues, especially for semiconductors, led to all manufacturers halting production at various times.

Consumers have seen this play out with low inventory at dealerships and exorbitant prices for used vehicles.

Like last year, we’ve gone into the numbers for a few manufacturers outside the top 10 that Australians might be interested in.

In this area, Tesla was clearly the best performer, almost doubling its sales and reaching a touching distance of one million units.

Unless otherwise stated, the figures used in this article come directly from the manufacturers. Please note that manufacturers have different methodologies for calculating sales or delivery figures.


Toyota at 10.3m

Toyota sold 10,340,336 vehicles across its Toyota, Lexus and Daihatsu brands in 2021. To make Apple comparisons easier, we’ve excluded Hino’s 155,212 trucks from our calculations and numbers unless otherwise noted.

While many other automakers had to cut production drastically due to global semiconductor shortages, Toyota was able to get through the first three quarters of the year before having to implement widespread shutdowns.

The Japanese automaker credits storage and its close relationships with suppliers for weathering the first part of the storm.

Again, Toyota is the dominant maker of hybrid vehicles, the type of transmission popularized by the Prius and now available across many model lines now accounting for 24% of all sales.

While the company unveiled its first consumer electric vehicle last year, the bZ4X won’t go on sale globally until later in 2022.

All Toyota electric cars and mild hybrids sold in 2021 came from the European ProAce and ProAce City vans, which are badge-engineered versions of the Peugeot Expert/Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Partner/Citroen Berlingo, respectively.

Volkswagen at 8.6m

Things didn’t go so well within the Volkswagen Group, with the German automaker’s passenger car divisions down 5.5% to 8,610,600.

Volkswagen cars accounted for 4,896,900 sales, followed by Audi at 1,680,500, then Skoda at 878,200.

But overall, the German automaker’s passenger car divisions fell 5.5% to 8,610,600.

As with Toyota, we have subtracted sales of the company’s truck brands from the overall figure so that the figures are more comparable between manufacturers.

While mainstream brands Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda were down, Seat saw sales soar thanks to its Cupra sub-brand. Cupra’s first unique vehicle, the Formentor crossover, had its first full year on the market and contributed to the brand’s significant growth.

The automaker’s stable of high-profit, low-volume brands also saw notable improvement.

Although the Volkswagen Group has improved sales in many regions, a sharp decline in China has seen the automaker lose ground to Toyota in the sales race.

The automaker is entering its second full year of big push in electric vehicles, with all of its electric models seeing big gains over 2020.

Overall, the group sold 452,900 electric cars globally, or 221,300 units or a 95.5% increase over the previous year.

Unsurprisingly, a crossover (the ID.4) takes first place. Indeed, crossovers account for at least 47.1% of EV sales, but the actual number should be close to 50% because Porsche doesn’t separate the Cross Turismo count from the rest of the Taycan lineup.

A car has disappeared from the list: the Volkswagen e-Golf. While the electric tailgate recorded 41,300 sales in 2020, it was discontinued as the Golf entered its eighth generation.

Audi’s two most popular models are now crossovers, with the A6 being the last remaining sedan/wagon combo with a podium spot.

Sales are now almost evenly split between crossovers and traditional bodies, with the latter now accounting for 49.7% of the brand’s volume.

Audi sold 81,894 electric vehicles in 2021, or 4.9% of its total. Sales of electric vehicles jumped 57.4%, thanks to the addition of two new models: the MEB-based Q4 e-tron crossover and the e-tron GT, the latter being the twin of the Porsche Taycan in a sharp business suit.

Renualt-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance

The alliance saw its sales increase by 0.14% to reach 7,680,014. The decline in Groupe Renault sales was largely offset by the good performance of Mitsubishi Motors.

The Renault group recorded slight gains on its two budget brands, Dacia and Lada, helping to offset the decline of its eponymous brand. We are likely to see a sharp drop in Renault’s numbers in 2022 as it is reportedly expected to sell its majority stake in Lada after Russia invades Ukraine.

A strong improvement in North America enabled Nissan to slightly increase global sales despite declines in all other markets.

While there were declines in China, Japan and Europe, North America helped pull the automaker out of the black thanks to new generations of popular models.

Mitsubishi was the shining star of the alliance in 2021, with big improvements in most markets.

There was a big downfall, however, in Europe. Under the leader-follower plan unveiled in mid-2020, Mitsubishi had originally planned to leave the continent to focus on developing markets.

In 2021, the company backtracked and decided to sell to stay in some European countries with redesigned Renault models, including a successor to the ASX based on the Renault Captur.

Derek Fung is a journalist at carexpert.