Domestic production

Some 5.65 million automobiles rolled off assembly lines in Germany in 2017. That equates to a fall of 2 percent. As an automotive production location Germany is therefore defending fourth place in the global country rankings ahead of India and behind China, the USA and Japan. Germany remains the most important production country in Europe by a significant margin. Its lead even increased compared with Spain and the United Kingdom, both of whose output fell by 3 percent.

The German automotive industry’s success is also based on the healthy balance between volume and premium models. In 2017 the premium segment’s share of domestic production hit a new high of 59 percent; ten years ago it was just a shade over 50 percent.

Foreign production

The year 2017 saw German automotive manufacturers continuing to push ahead with their global expansion. Production outside Germany increased by 7 percent to 10.8 million automobiles. The German manufacturers’ most important foreign location remains China, where companies produced 4.9 million automobiles, 8 percent more than the year before. Three in every ten cars made by German groups are now built in China.

In the NAFTA region as well, 2017 saw an increase in German car production. German manufacturers’ output increased by 11 percent to 1.4 million automobiles. Of this total, 804,000 were accounted for by the USA and 620,000 units by Mexico. In South America, Brazil is an important location for German manufacturers. The year 2017 saw a reversal in the trend; production started growing again, up by fully one quarter to 436,000 vehicles. Admittedly that is only barely half the record level of 2010.

German foreign production in Europe in 2017 increased by 5 percent to 3.6 million units. Heading the production country league with 858,000 units (plus 13 percent) was the Czech Republic, which overtook Spain (down 4 percent to 799,000 units) for the first time.


Cars “Made in Germany” again lost none of their allure in 2017. Automobile exports of 4.38 million almost equaled the previous year’s high level (-0.7 percent). Growth in the past five years totaled 6 percent. The export quotient, namely the ratio of exports to total production reached a new record figure of 77.5 percent. This success in world markets depends very much on free trade. But behind the production of automobiles are to be found particularly complex cross-border value chains. The importing of the required raw materials and vendors components create jobs and prosperity in many countries, not just in one.

The EU internal market remained far and away the most important target region for German automobile exports in 2017, 57 percent of all exports or 2.5 million units (plus 1 percent) went to European Union member states. The most important purchasing countries in the EU were the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Spain and the Benelux countries.

A significant boost in demand for German automobiles in 2017 came from Asia. With 707,000 units, the previous year’s level was exceeded by 7 percent. The demand for German cars was spearheaded by the most important Asian export partners China (plus 11 percent to 250,000 units) and Japan (plus 14 percent to 141,000 units).

Exports to North and South America fell 7 percent to 657,000 units. That is around 200,000 vehicles fewer than in the record year 2013. This significant decline is primarily attributable to the increase in local production.

Dr. Manuel Kallweit Head of Department Economic Intelligence & Statistics

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