A vintage promotion of the no longer operating Pontiac, highlighting the Pontiac 6 and the manufacturer, GM
A modern assembly-line
A video showing new SEAT, Škoda & Volkswagen cars being transported by rail at Kutná Hora město train station in the Czech Republic

The automotive industry comprises a wide range of companies and organizations involved in the design, development, manufacturing, marketing, selling, repairing, and modification of motor vehicles.[1] It is one of the world's largest industries by revenue (from 16 % such as in France up to 40 % to countries like Slovakia).[2][failed verification]

The word automotive comes from the Greek autos (self), and Latin motivus (of motion), referring to any form of self-powered vehicle.[clarification needed] This term, as proposed by Elmer Sperry[3][need quotation to verify] (1860–1930), first came into use with reference to automobiles in 1898.


This section needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (January 2021)

Main article: History of the automobile

Thomas B. Jeffery automobile factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, around 1916
Fiat assembly line in 1961

The automotive industry began in the 1860s with hundreds of manufacturers that pioneered the horseless carriage. For many decades, the United States led the world in total automobile production. In 1929, before the Great Depression, the world had 32,028,500 automobiles in use, and the U.S. automobile industry produced over 90% of them. At that time, the U.S. had one car per 4.87 persons.[4] After 1945, the U.S. produced about 75 percent of world's auto production. In 1980, the U.S. was overtaken by Japan and then became a world leader again in 1994. In 2006, Japan narrowly passed the U.S. in production and held this rank until 2009, when China took the top spot with 13.8 million units. With 19.3 million units manufactured in 2012, China almost doubled the U.S. production of 10.3 million units, while Japan was in third place with 9.9 million units.[5] From 1970 (140 models) over 1998 (260 models) to 2012 (684 models), the number of automobile models in the U.S. has grown exponentially.[6]

Early car manufacturing involved manual assembly by a human worker. The process evolved from engineers working on a stationary car, to a conveyor belt system where the car passed through multiple stations of more specialized engineers. Starting in the 1960s, robotic equipment was introduced to the process, and today most cars are produced largely with automated machinery.[7]


Main article: Automobile safety

See also: 2009–11 Toyota vehicle recalls, General Motors ignition switch recalls, and Firestone and Ford tire controversy

Safety is a state that implies being protected from any risk, danger, damage, or cause of injury. In the automotive industry, safety means that users, operators, or manufacturers do not face any risk or danger coming from the motor vehicle or its spare parts. Safety for the automobiles themselves implies that there is no risk of damage.

Safety in the automotive industry is particularly important and therefore highly regulated. Automobiles and other motor vehicles have to comply with a certain number of regulations, whether local or international, in order to be accepted on the market. The standard ISO 26262, is considered one of the best practice frameworks for achieving automotive functional safety.[8]

In case of safety issues, danger, product defect, or faulty procedure during the manufacturing of the motor vehicle, the maker can request to return either a batch or the entire production run. This procedure is called product recall. Product recalls happen in every industry and can be production-related or stem from raw materials.

Product and operation tests and inspections at different stages of the value chain are made to avoid these product recalls by ensuring end-user security and safety and compliance with the automotive industry requirements. However, the automotive industry is still particularly concerned about product recalls, which cause considerable financial consequences.


See also: Automotive industry by country

In 2007, there were about 806 million cars and light trucks on the road, consuming over 980 billion litres (980,000,000 m3) of gasoline and diesel fuel yearly.[9] The automobile is a primary mode of transportation for many developed economies. The Detroit branch of Boston Consulting Group predicted that, by 2014, one-third of world demand would be in the four BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). Meanwhile, in developed countries, the automotive industry has slowed.[10] It is also expected that this trend will continue, especially as the younger generations of people (in highly urbanized countries) no longer want to own a car anymore, and prefer other modes of transport.[11] Other potentially powerful automotive markets are Iran and Indonesia.[12] Emerging automobile markets already buy more cars than established markets.

According to a J.D. Power study, emerging markets accounted for 51 percent of the global light-vehicle sales in 2010. The study, performed in 2010 expected this trend to accelerate.[13][14] However, more recent reports (2012) confirmed the opposite; namely that the automotive industry was slowing down even in BRIC countries.[10] In the United States, vehicle sales peaked in 2000, at 17.8 million units.[15]

In July 2021, the European Commission released its "Fit for 55" legislation package,[16] which contains important guidelines for the future of the automotive industry; all new cars on the European market must be zero-emission vehicles from 2035.[17]

The governments of 24 developed countries and a group of major car manufacturers including GM, Ford, Volvo, BYD Auto, Jaguar Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz committed to "work towards all sales of new cars and vans being zero emission globally by 2040, and by no later than 2035 in leading markets".[18][19] Major car manufacturing nations like the United States, Germany, China, Japan and South Korea, as well as Volkswagen, Toyota, Peugeot, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai, did not pledge.[20]

Environmental impacts

The global automotive industry is a major consumer of water. Some estimates surpass 180,000 L (39,000 imp gal) of water per car manufactured, depending on whether tyre production is included. Production processes that use a significant volume of water include surface treatment, painting, coating, washing, cooling, air-conditioning, and boilers, not counting component manufacturing. Paintshop operations consume especially large amounts of water because equipment running on water-based products must also be cleaned with water.[21]

In 2022, Tesla's Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg ran into legal challenges due to droughts and falling groundwater levels in the region. Brandenburg's Economy Minister Joerg Steinbach said that while water supply was sufficient during the first stage, more would be needed once Tesla expands the site. The factory would nearly double the water consumption in the Gruenheide area, with 1.4 million cubic meters being contracted from local authorities per year — enough for a city of around 40,000 people. Steinbach said that the authorities would like to drill for more water there and outsource any additional supply if necessary.[22]

World motor vehicle production

World motor vehicle production[23]
Production volume (1000 vehicles)

1960s: Post-war increase

1970s: Oil crisis and tighter safety and emission regulation

1990s: Production started in NICs.

2000s: Rise of China as a top producer

Automotive industry crisis of 2008–2010
To 1950: US had produced more than 80% of motor vehicles.[24]

1950s: United Kingdom, Germany, and France restarted production.

1960s: Japan started production and increased volume through the 1980s. United States, Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom produced about 80% of motor vehicles through the 1980s.

1990s: South Korea became a volume producer. In 2004, Korea became No. 5 passing France.

2000s: China increased its production drastically, and became the world's largest-producing country in 2009.

2010s: India overtakes Korea, Canada, Spain to become 5th largest automobile producer.

2013: The share of China (25.4%), India, Korea, Brazil, and Mexico rose to 43%, while the share of United States (12.7%), Japan, Germany, France, and United Kingdom fell to 34%.

2018: India overtakes Germany to become 4th largest automobile producer.
World motor production (1997-2016)

By year

See also: List of countries by motor vehicle production

Year Production Change Source
1997 54,434,000 [25]
1998 52,987,000 Decrease 2.7% [25]
1999 56,258,892 Increase 6.2% [26]
2000 58,374,162 Increase 3.8% [27]
2001 56,304,925 Decrease 3.5% [28]
2002 58,994,318 Increase 4.8% [29]
2003 60,663,225 Increase 2.8% [30]
2004 64,496,220 Increase 6.3% [31]
2005 66,482,439 Increase 3.1% [32]
2006 69,222,975 Increase 4.1% [33]
2007 73,266,061 Increase 5.8% [34]
2008 70,520,493 Decrease 3.7% [35]
2009 61,791,868 Decrease 12.4% [36]
2010 77,857,705 Increase 26.0% [37]
2011 79,989,155 Increase 3.1% [38]
2012 84,141,209 Increase 5.3% [39]
2013 87,300,115 Increase 3.7% [40]
2014 89,747,430 Increase 2.6% [41]
2015 90,086,346 Increase 0.4% [42]
2016 94,976,569 Increase 4.5% [43]
2017 97,302,534 Increase 2.36% [44]
2018 95,634,593 Decrease 1.71% [45]
2019 91,786,861 Decrease 5.2% [46]
2020 77,621,582 Decrease 16% [47]
2021 80,145,988 Increase 3.25% [48]
2022 85,016,728 Increase 6.08% [49]


Percentage of exported cars by country (2014)

from Harvard Atlas of Economic Complexity

Global automobile import and export in 2011

By country

Main article: Automotive industry by country

The OICA counts over 50 countries that assemble, manufacture, or disseminate automobiles. Of those, only 15 countries (boldfaced in the list below) currently possess the capability to design original production automobiles from the ground up.[51][52]

Top 20 motor vehicle producing countries (2022)
Country Motor vehicle production (units)
United States
South Korea
Czech Republic
United Kingdom

† = cars and LCV only "Production Statistics". OICA.

By manufacturer

Main article: List of manufacturers by motor vehicle production

See also: List of car brands

These were the 15 largest manufacturers by production volume in 2017, according to OICA.[50]

Rank Group Country Vehicles
1 Toyota Japan 10,466,051
2 Volkswagen Group Germany 10,382,334
3 Hyundai South Korea 7,218,391
4 General Motors United States 6,856,880
5 Ford United States 6,386,818
6 Nissan Japan 5,769,277
7 Honda Japan 5,236,842
8 Fiat Chrysler Automobilesa Italy/United States 4,600,847
9 Renault France 4,153,589
10 PSA Groupa France 3,649,742
11 Suzuki Japan 3,302,336
12 SAIC China 2,866,913
13 Daimler Germany 2,549,142
14 BMW Germany 2,505,741
15 Geely China 1,950,382

Notable company relationships

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (December 2020)

Stake holding

It is common for automobile manufacturers to hold stakes in other automobile manufacturers. These ownerships can be explored under the detail for the individual companies.

Notable current relationships include:[citation needed]

Joint ventures

China joint venture

Outside China

See also


^a These figures were before the merger of both Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Groupe PSA; the latter of which has merged into Stellantis as of January 2021.


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Further reading