Tumbled, plummeted, collapsed, plunged. Pick one of those words and it’ll apply to the sales of almost every automaker in almost every global market in the first quarter of this year.

    Global car sales have copped a beating in China, where the first COVID-19 cases appeared, although the market has begun to recover. 

    Conversely, for markets like Europe and North America – where many businesses have shut down and movements are restricted – Q1 looks like it won’t be the last quarter this year with a lot of minus signs.

    BMW Group

    Global sales of BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce vehicles were down 20.6 per cent overall compared to the same period last year.

    Broken down, BMW sales slumped 20.1 per cent, Mini sales were down 23.4 per cent, and Rolls-Royce sales were down 27.2 per cent.

    Global car sales plummet in Q1 2020

    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

    FCA’s US sales were down only 10 per cent in the first quarter, though the numbers were worse elsewhere. Jeep sales in China, for example, plummeted 65 per cent.

    According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, registrations of FCA vehicles in Europe fell 34.5 per cent. That decline comprised drops for Lancia (-31.5 per cent), Fiat (-31.6 per cent), Jeep (-42.9 per cent), Alfa Romeo (-44.6 per cent) and Maserati (-51 per cent).

    Global car sales plummet in Q1 2020


    Globally, Ford sales were down 21 per cent compared with the same period last year.

    That decline encompassed a 12.5 per cent drop in the US and a 30.1 per cent hit to the company’s struggling Chinese operations. 

    Ford registrations in Europe were also down 37.4 per cent.

    Global car sales plummet in Q1 2020

    General Motors

    The American automaker saw a 7.0 per cent decline in sales in its homeland.

    The result was worse in China, the company’s largest market. There, sales were down 43 per cent year-over-year.

    Great Wall 

    The Chinese company, which also owns Haval, saw sales decline 47.04 per cent.


    Honda’s two Chinese joint-venture partners, Dongfeng Honda and GAC Honda, registered declines year-over-year of 55.16 and 46.18 per cent, respectively.

    European figures were almost as dire, with registrations plummeting 41.4 per cent. These figures make the US decline of 19.2 per cent look almost peachy.

    Global car sales plummet in Q1 2020


    Sales at the company’s Chinese joint-venture, Dongfeng Hyundai, were down 43.3 per cent. European registrations were down 22.8 per cent while US sales were down 11 per cent. 

    Jaguar Land Rover

    The company reported an overall decline in global sales of 30.9 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2019. Land Rover was down 25.9 per cent while Jaguar slumped 42.6 per cent.


    Chinese sales were down 47.2 per cent and European sales were down 14.5 per cent but, fortunately for Kia – and for us, as we’re running out of synonyms for “drop” and “decline” – US sales increased by 1.0 per cent. 

    Global car sales plummet in Q1 2020


    European registrations declined 44.9 per cent and Changan Mazda sales in China plunged 48.08 per cent. 

    The picture was rosier in the US, with sales down a modest 4.5 per cent.

    Global car sales plummet in Q1 2020


    Global sales declined 14.9 per cent compared to the same period last year. Mercedes-Benz cars was down 17.8 per cent and its van division declined 14.9 per cent.

    The hardest hit was Smart, though it’s in the midst of a model changeover. Nevertheless, sales nosedived by 78.3 per cent.

    Mercedes-Benz car sales were down the most in China (-20.3 per cent), followed by Europe (-15.9 per cent) and North America (down 6.7 per cent, or 4.8 per cent in the US). 

    Overall, Mercedes-Benz car sales in the Asia-Pacific region declined 17.1 per cent compared to the same period last year. 


    The ACEA reports Mitsubishi registrations in Europe were down 24.4 per cent compared to Q1 2019. Chinese sales fared much worse, tumbling by 66 per cent.

    The company performed better in the US where it fell by only 15.5 per cent. Only in the midst of a crisis like this could a drop of 15.5 per cent be described as “better”.

    Global car sales plummet in Q1 2020


    Dongfeng, Nissan’s Chinese joint-venture partner based in Wuhan, saw a drop of 44.07 per cent compared to Q1 2019.

    European registrations declined by 25.6 per cent and US sales – including the Infiniti brand – fell by 29.6 per cent.


    Groupe PSA’s global sales were down 29.2 per cent.

    Opel and Vauxhall posted the largest decline, with sales falling 35 per cent. The brand’s best-seller, the Corsa, slumped 14 per cent and Astra sales were down 26.9 per cent.

    On the plus side, the Combo van was up 38.6 per cent and the mid-sized Grandland crossover increased its sales by 3 per cent. 

    Peugeot’s global sales were down 26.2 per cent, with the entire range posting declines. Citroen did marginally worse, with a 28.6 per cent decline.

    It wasn’t all bad news for PSA. Its premium DS brand increased sales by 9.9 per cent, thanks to the new DS 3 Crossback SUV (above).

    Global car sales plummet in Q1 2020


    According to the ACEA, Renault Group registrations declined by 36.1 per cent.

    Broken down, it ranged from bad to worse. There was a 32.4 per cent drop for the Renault brand, 42.6 per cent for budget brand Dacia, 55.7 per cent for Lada and a staggering 79.9 per cent tumble for Alpine.

    SAIC Motor

    The Chinese giant, which owns LDV and MG, recorded a decline in Chinese sales of 55.71 per cent.


    Subaru’s US sales fell 16.7 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2019.


    Chinese sales were down by 45.2 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2019.

    Global car sales plummet in Q1 2020


    The American EV manufacturer bucked the trend and actually recorded its best Q1 results ever. 

    Global deliveries were up 40.3 per cent even though deliveries of the Model Y didn’t begin until March. 


    The Japanese juggernaut saw a drop of 8.8 per cent in the US market and an almost identical 8.9 per cent decrease in registrations in Europe. Chinese sales plummeted 28.5 per cent.

    Luxury Lexus fell 15.9 per cent in the US market but actually rose in Europe by 1.6 per cent, marking a rare bright spot.

    Volkswagen Group

    Worldwide sales for the German behemoth fell by 23 per cent.

    The decline was sharp enough for Volkswagen to announce it was cancelling its 2020 forecast. Chinese sales were a low light, with the Volkswagen brand posting a 49.8 per cent decline.

    Audi’s US sales fell by 14 per cent, its European registrations were down by 19.1 per cent, and Chinese sales declined 25.6 per cent.

    Porsche weathered the storm better than most car companies, registering only a 5 per cent decline compared to Q1 2019.

    The Stuttgart brand’s sales were down in the US (-20 per cent) and China (-17 per cent) but were up in Europe (+20 per cent).

    Global car sales plummet in Q1 2020


    Global Volvo Cars sales figures were down 18.2 per cent compared to the same period last year. 

    Chinese sales were down 30.5 per cent, though Volvo has reopened production facilities in China this month and showroom traffic has begun to pick up. 

    In the US, Volvo sales declined 11.7 per cent while European sales were down 18.5 per cent.

    One figure went up, however – the percentage of Volvos sold that were SUVs. This increased from 60.3 per cent in Q1 2019 to 67.9 per cent in Q1 2020, with the Volvo XC60 reigning as Volvo’s best-selling model. It was followed by the XC40 and XC90.

    Read up on the top 10 best selling cars in Australia in 2021:

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

    Buy and Lease
    Uncover exclusive deals and discounts with a VIP referral to Australia's best dealers
    Uncover exclusive deals and discounts with a VIP referral to Australia's best dealers