How Much Revenue Automakers Generate Every Second
Since their invention, automobiles have been a driving force of the global economy.
Used by millions of people to get to work, transport goods, and travel, the modern automobile has become ubiquitous in our daily lives. So much so, that a whopping 92 million cars were produced in just 2019.
To help us understand the might of the auto industry, this infographic from Parts Geek breaks down the earnings of 19 major car companies by an interesting metric—revenue per second.
The Full List of Automakers
Below are the earnings of the 19 automakers featured in the infographic.
The Volkswagen Group claims the top spot with $290.2B in gross revenue, translating to $9,202.88 per second. Capping off the list is the world’s most valuable automaker, Tesla, which generated a relatively smaller $24.6B in gross revenue, or $780.06 per second.
|Automaker||2019 Gross Revenue ($)||2019 Gross Revenue per Second ($)|
A clear takeaway from this data is that Volkswagen and Toyota have a sizable lead over the rest of their peers. Let’s take a closer look at how these two companies operate.
The Volkswagen Group
The Volkswagen Group holds a comprehensive portfolio of brands and services, and has been the world’s largest automaker, by sales, for the past three years.
Beginning with passenger cars and motorcycles, its numerous brands reported the following results for 2019.
|Brand||Vehicle Sales||Sales Revenue* ($)||Average Revenue per Vehicle ($)|
|Audi (includes Lamborghini and Ducatti)||1,200,000||$62.4B||$52,028|
*Based on an exchange rate of 1.12 EUR/USD (Dec. 31, 2019)
Other sources of revenue were Volkswagen’s $44.5B commercial vehicle business, its $4.7B power engineering business, and lastly its $44.4B financial services division.
In total, the Volkswagen Group delivered just short of 11 million vehicles in 2019, besting its 2018 deliveries by 1.3% and setting a new record for the group. While a majority of these vehicles were produced in Europe, the group operates a global production network with a significant presence in Asia.
|Region||Number of locations||Share of total production|
The German automaker has invested billions in China, the world’s largest car market, to scale its electric vehicle (EV) production capabilities.
Toyota Motor Corporation
Toyota Motor Corporation operates a much more concentrated brand portfolio, with Toyota and Lexus being its two most prominent names. This strategy seems to be working well, as Toyota was ranked the ninth most valuable brand in 2019, and was the only automaker to crack the top ten.
A testament to Toyota’s global influence is its relatively balanced breakdown of 2019 revenues by regional market:
- North America: 30%
- Japan: 25%
- Asia: 18%
- Europe: 11.5%
- Other: 15.3%
For comparison, here is Volkswagen’s 2019 revenues by region, which leans heavily towards Europe:
- Europe (excl. Germany): 42%
- Germany: 19%
- North America: 17%
- South America: 4%
- Asia-Pacific: 17%
The Japanese automaker’s popularity in foreign regions is likely the result of its reputation for reliability and affordability. It may also explain why Toyota’s trucks are a common sight in tough environments such as conflict zones of the developing world.
Altogether, Toyota and its subsidiaries sold nearly 9 million vehicles in 2019, setting a new record for the company but just 0.1% higher than its 2018 figure. Similar to Volkswagen, a majority of Toyota’s vehicles are produced in its home region, with the remainder being built around the world.
|Region||Share of total production|
Outside of Japan, Toyota has significant production capabilities in the U.S., where it makes everything from pickup trucks to sedans. In 2016, the Toyota Camry made headlines after being ranked the most American-made car—over 75% of its parts were sourced domestically.
Alternative Revenue Sources
While automobiles represent the core business for these companies, many of them have alternative revenue sources. Honda, for example, produces motorcycles, boat engines, lawn mowers, and even personal jets.
Porsche takes a slightly different approach with its accessories and licensing subsidiary, Porsche Design. Since 2003, a variety of lifestyle goods including eyewear, smartphones, and watches have been sold under the Porsche name. Its most noteworthy project is the Porsche Design Tower Miami, a residential skyscraper which features a robotic car elevator.
Finally, electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla earns additional revenues by selling carbon credits to other automakers that fail to meet government-imposed quotas on EV sales. Since Tesla only produces EVs, it has no need for its credits and is free to sell them. In the second quarter of 2020, Tesla earned $428 million from selling carbon credits, representing 7% of its total revenues for the period.
The Road Ahead
Additional revenue streams are continuing to open up as automakers integrate new technologies into their cars.
Cadillac and Tesla, two American brands, have both announced that their self-driving capabilities will eventually become a paid subscription service. Meanwhile, Germany’s premium automakers are expanding into wireless services. BMW claims it will become the first automaker to offer 5G connectivity in its cars, while Mercedes now sells downloadable software packages to enhance a driver’s experience.
While it’s too early to say whether or not these services will have a significant impact on an automaker’s bottom line, forecasts claim this so-called “connected car market” will be worth $166 billion by 2025. To put that into perspective, that’s more than half of Volkswagen’s gross revenue in 2019, or $5,264 per second.
The Best-Selling Vehicles in the World By Country
From American trucks to European sedans, this map shows the best-selling vehicles in the world.
The Best-Selling Vehicles in the World By Country
Each country has different preferences for goods, and vehicles are no different.
Consumers in a dense country might prefer smaller cars, while countries with wide expanses (and parking spots) open the way for larger trucks. Likewise, rugged terrain might call for vehicles that can adapt and scale quickly.
And it’s also a question of which manufacturer invested in the country. As the world’s largest automakers have raced to attract consumers in every corner of the globe, they built factories, renamed models, and even built specific cars to fit the tastes of individual countries.
This infographic from Budget Direct Car Insurance highlights the best-selling vehicles in the world, using 2019 year-end sales data.
What is the Most Popular Vehicle in Each Country?
Though the map might vary across the board, one thing is certain: Toyota’s dominance.
The Japanese automaker—which was also the most valuable automaker in the world for many years before being overtaken by Tesla—had the best-selling vehicle in 41 countries of the 104 countries tallied.
It also had the world’s best-selling vehicle in 2019, the Toyota Corolla, though the sedan only took the top spot itself in five countries.
|American Samoa||Toyota Tacoma||Truck|
|Angola||Toyota Land Cruiser J70||SUV|
|Bahrain||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Skoda Octavia||Sedan|
|Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)||Toyota Hilux||Truck|
|Czech Republic||Skoda Octavia||Sedan|
|France||Peugeot 208 I||Subcompact|
|Kuwait||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
|Lebanon||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
|Netherlands||Tesla Model 3||Sedan|
|New Zealand||Ford Ranger||Truck|
|Norway||Tesla Model 3||Sedan|
|Oman||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
|Papua New Guinea||Toyota Land Cruiser J70||SUV|
|Qatar||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
|Saudi Arabia||Hyundai Accent||Subcompact|
|Solomon Islands||Toyota Hilux||Truck|
|South Africa||Toyota Hilux||Truck|
|South Korea||Hyundai Grandeur||Sedan|
|Sri Lanka||Suzuki Alto||Hatchback|
|Swaziland (Eswatini)||Toyota Hilux||Truck|
|United Arab Emirates||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
|United Kingdom||Ford Fiesta||Subcompact|
|United States||Ford F-150||Truck|
|Yemen||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
As the best-seller in 16 countries, the Toyota Hilux truck (also known as the Toyota Pickup in North America) was the top vehicle in the most countries. It has a noticeably strong market share in the Southern Hemisphere, including in Argentina, South Africa, and Australia.
The other consistent factor was the strength of local manufacturers. Many countries with large automakers had local models as the best-selling vehicles, especially in Europe.
|Country with Local Best-Seller||Vehicle|
|Czech Republic||Škoda Octavia|
|France||Peugeot 208 I|
|South Korea||Hyundai Grandeur|
Cars are the Best-Selling Vehicles in the World
So what do car consumers currently prefer? Currently, cars have a slight edge over trucks as the best-selling vehicles in the world.
Of the 104 countries with sales tallied for the study, smaller cars often classified as “passenger vehicles” (including sedans, hatchbacks, and subcompacts) made up the majority of best-sellers, with 57 of the best-selling vehicles by country.
Meanwhile, “light trucks” or “light commercial vehicles,” which include trucks, SUVs, and vans, were best-sellers in 47 countries.
Best-Selling Vehicles by Type
- Hatchback: 12
- Sedan: 25
- Sedan/Wagon: 1
- Subcompact: 19
- SUV: 20
- Truck: 24
- Van: 3
But changing car consumption preferences are already making their mark. The electric vehicle (EV) Tesla Model 3 was already the best-selling vehicle in both the Netherlands and Norway, and other countries like China are increasing incentives for consumers to purchase EVs.
That’s not even factoring in the slowdown of travel during the COVID pandemic, more workers going remote, and the semiconductor strain on automakers. A truly post-COVID world will likely transform the map even further.
The Best-Selling Car in America, Every Year Since 1978
From the Cutlass to the Camry, this graphic shows 40+ years of the most-purchased cars in the U.S.
The Best-Selling Car in America, Every Year Since 1978
Cars have been a staple of the U.S. economy almost since their inception. But as vehicle designs have evolved over time, and consumer tastes alongside them, the best-selling car in America has changed as well.
Finding the right mix of affordability, style, and features has meant that different manufacturers have been in the market lead during different decades.
This infographic from Alan’s Factory Outlet shows the most-purchased cars in the U.S. since 1978, not including trucks and SUVs.
What Is The Best-Selling Car in America By Year?
From 1978 to 2020, over 348 million cars were sold in the U.S., or an average of 8.1 million cars per year. Car sales were especially strong during times of high oil prices, such as following the 1979 oil crisis, as consumers avoided less fuel-efficient trucks and SUVs.
And throughout most of the 20th century, car sales in the U.S. were led by American manufacturers.
From 1978 to 1988, two of the “Big Three” Detroit-based auto manufacturers had the best-selling cars in the country. GM had two models of the Oldsmobile Cutlass and two different Chevrolets in the top spot, while Ford was able to compete with the compact Ford Escort.
But since the late 1980s, Japanese manufacturers started to take over in affordability, reliability, and overall sales.
|Years||Car Model||Best-Selling Span (U.S.)|
|1978–1981||Oldsmobile Cutlass||4 years|
|1982||Ford Escort||1 year|
|1983||Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme||1 year|
|1984–1985||Chevrolet Cavalier||2 years|
|1986||Chevrolet Celebrity||1 year|
|1987–1988||Ford Escort||2 years|
|1989–1991||Honda Accord||3 years|
|1992–1996||Ford Taurus||5 years|
|1997–2000||Toyota Camry||4 years|
|2001||Honda Accord||1 year|
|2002–2020||Toyota Camry||19 years|
After Honda and Ford fought closely for the most popular cars with the Accord and the Taurus, Toyota grabbed the crown with the ultra-popular Toyota Camry.
Toyota, which was the world’s largest automaker by market cap for a majority of the last 30 years, also has the world’s best-selling car of all-time with another popular model, the Toyota Corolla.
The company’s cars have resonated with consumers due to reliability, safety, and efficiency in spite of being mass-produced and affordable. High ownership satisfaction and low incidence rates also led Camrys to have high resale value.
Runner Ups and Best-Selling Trucks and SUVs
Just behind Toyota for many years was another Japanese automaker, Honda. The company’s Accord and Civic models consistently ranked just behind the Toyota Camry in U.S. sales throughout most of the 2000s.
Despite most of the world preferring cars for vehicle purchases, the U.S. has become light truck and SUV dominant since the 2000s.
|Car Model||Units Sold (U.S. 2020)|
The proliferation of light trucks also meant that Toyota, one of the world’s leading hybrid sellers, saw the crossover/SUV Toyota RAV4 Hybrid beat the well-known Prius consistently in U.S. sales.
Meanwhile, electric car sales in the U.S. are still far behind, climbing up to 1.8% of sales in 2020 from 1.4% the year before. Compared to countries like Norway where electric cars make up the majority of vehicle sales, the U.S. will likely be dominated by light-trucks for years to come.
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