Global SUV Sales Set Another Record in 2021, Setting Back Efforts to Reduce Emissions

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As the global economy has recovered strongly this year, car sales have rebounded too. Globally, they are set to grow by 4 percent in 2021, according to the auto industry tracker MarkLines, reaching close to 80 million and making up part of the huge drop they experienced in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In particular, electric car sales have continued to show their resilience to volatility in the wider car market. In a few key car markets – such as Germany (above 34 percent), the United Kingdom (28 percent), France (over 23 percent) and China (18 percent) – the market share of electric cars reached record levels as of late November.

To date, around 34 countries have announced policies that set a future deadline for banning new registrations of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars. This has been accompanied by announcements from automakers such as Ford, Volkswagen and General Motors of plans to phase out ICE cars from their production lines. Yet, even if global electric car sales in 2021 end up meeting the most optimistic expectations, SUV sales are still set to be five times higher.

Global SUV sales have proven very resilient throughout the pandemic, growing by over 10 percent between 2020 and 2021. In 2021, SUVs are on course to account for more than 45 percent of global car sales – setting a new record in terms of both volume and market share. The growth of SUVs continues to be robust in several countries, including the United States, India and across Europe. In some other countries, such as China, the growth of SUVs is stagnating, mainly driven by the big rise of small battery-powered electric cars.

The increasing number of electric SUV models released in 2021 means that SUVs are electrifying faster than in previous years. In 2021, around 55 percent of the electric car models on the market were SUVs, up from 45 percent two years ago. For the first time ever, the electrification ratio of SUVs matches the electrification ratio of non-SUV cars. In both the United States and the European Union, e-SUVs are expected to account for more than 55 percent of all electric car sales in 2021. By contrast, the majority of electric car sales globally in 2021 were still non-SUVs, driven especially by preferences for smaller cars among Chinese consumers. For example, mini electrified models made their appearance in China with a price of less than 10,000 USD.

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Source: IEA