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.
How Has Car Safety Improved Over 60 Years?
Seatbelts first became mandatory in the US in 1968. Since then, new technologies have greatly reduced road fatalities.
How Has Car Safety Improved Over 60 Years?
Did you know that in 2019, there were 6.7 million car accidents in the U.S. alone?
This resulted in 36,096 deaths over the year—an awful statistic to say the least—but one that would be much worse if it weren’t for seatbelts, airbags, and other modern safety devices.
In this infographic, we’ve visualized data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation to show how breakthroughs in car safety have drastically reduced the number of motor vehicle fatalities.
Measuring Safety Improvements
The data shows the number of fatalities for every 100 million miles driven. From a high of 5.1 in 1960 (the first year data is available), we can see that this metric has fallen by 78% to just 1.1.
|Year||Fatilities per 100 million miles|
What makes this even more impressive is the fact that there are more cars on the road today than in 1960. This can be measured by the total number of miles driven each year.
So, while the total number of miles driven has increased by 371%, the rate of fatalities has decreased by 78%. Below, we’ll take a closer look at some important car safety innovations.
1. The Seatbelt
The introduction of seatbelts was a major stepping stone for improving car safety, especially as vehicles became capable of higher speeds.
The first iteration of seatbelts were a 2-point design because they only looped across a person’s waist (and thus had 2 points of mounting). This design is flawed because it doesn’t hold our upper body in place during a collision.
Today’s seatbelts use a 3-point design which was developed in 1959 by Nils Bohlin, an engineer at Volvo. This design adds a shoulder belt that holds our torso in place during a collision. It took many years for Volvo to not only develop the device, but also to convince the public to use it. The U.S., for instance, did not mandate 3-point seatbelts until 1973.
2. The Airbag
The concept of an airbag is relatively simple—rather than smacking our face against the steering wheel, we cushion the blow with an inflatable pillow.
In practice, however, airbags need to be very precise because it takes just 50 milliseconds for our heads to collide with the wheel in a frontal crash. To inflate in such a short period of time, airbags rely on a chemical reaction using sodium azide.
The design of an airbag’s internal mechanism can also cause issues, as was discovered during the Takata airbag recall. As these airbags inflated, there was a chance for them to also send metal shards flying through the cabin at high speeds.
Dual front airbags (one for each side) were mandated by the U.S. government in 1998. Today, many cars offer side curtain airbags as an option, but these are not required by law.
3. The Backup Camera
Backup cameras became a legal requirement in May 2018, making them one of the newest pieces of standard safety equipment in the U.S. These cameras are designed to reduce the number of backover crashes involving objects, pedestrians, or other cars.
Measuring the safety benefits of backup cameras can be tricky, but a 2014 study did conclude that cameras were useful for preventing collisions. A common criticism of backup cameras is that they limit our field of vision, as opposed to simply turning our heads to face the rear.
Taking Car Safety to the Next Level
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), having both seatbelts and airbags can reduce the chance of death from a head-on collision by 61%. That’s a big reduction, but there’s still plenty of room left on the table for further improvements.
As a result, automakers have been equipping their cars with many technology-enabled safety measures. This includes pre-collision assist systems which use sensors and cameras to help prevent an accident. These systems can prevent you from drifting into another lane (by actually adjusting the steering wheel), or apply the brakes to mitigate an imminent frontal collision.
Whether these systems have any meaningful benefit remains to be seen. Referring to the table above shows that fatalities per 100 million miles have not fallen any further since 2010.
Ranked: The 35 Vehicles With the Longest Production Runs
Successful cars come in many shapes and sizes. See which ones have stood the test of time in this infographic.
Visualizing the Longest Vehicle Production Runs
Over the automotive industry’s 100+ year history, companies such as Ford, Chevrolet, and Mercedes-Benz have produced some truly iconic cars.
Whether they’re designed for excitement, luxury, or just simple transportation, these vehicles offer a set of features that make them highly desirable to consumers. The most successful models will undergo numerous revisions over time, sometimes sticking around for many decades.
To learn more, this graphic from Alan’s Factory Outlet lists the 35 vehicles with the longest production runs of all time. Here are the top 10 below.
|Brand||Model Name||Class||Production Run (years)|
|🇺🇸 Ford||F-Series||Pickup truck||74|
|🇯🇵 Toyota||Land Cruiser||SUV||70|
|🇺🇸 Chevrolet||Corvette||Sports car||68|
|🇩🇪 Porsche||911||Sports car||58|
As we can see, successful models come in many shapes and sizes, and from a variety of manufacturers. Below, we’ll take a deeper dive to learn more about what makes these cars special.
Ford began selling its first pickup truck in 1925, which was essentially a Model T with a flatbed in the rear. This layout was very useful because it enabled people to transport cargo, raw materials, and other items with relative ease.
Then, in 1948, Ford introduced the F-series pickup. The truck became one of Ford’s most well-known and profitable models, and is currently in its 14th generation.
While the fundamental shape of the F-series hasn’t changed, Ford’s best-selling model owes much of its success to its constant innovation and technological improvements.
In 2015, the F-150 became the first fullsize pickup to feature an all-aluminum body. This reduced the truck’s weight by as much as 500 pounds, resulting in better fuel economy and driving dynamics.
Ford is also credited with bringing turbocharged engines into the mainstream (within the pickup segment). This first-mover advantage gave the F-Series a competitive edge in terms of fuel efficiency and torque.
First introduced in 1953, the Chevrolet Corvette is regarded as America’s most iconic sports car. It has a reputation for offering similar performance as its more expensive foreign rivals, and combines unique styling elements with a successful motorsport background.
For most of its history, the Corvette was a rear-wheel drive coupe with a V-8 engine placed in the front. It also featured pop-up headlights for several generations, but the design was eventually phased out due to stricter regulations.
Chevrolet drastically changed the formula of the Corvette for its eighth generation, which launched in 2020. The engine is no longer in the front of the car, but instead, placed directly behind the occupants.
This mid-engine layout results in a Corvette with significantly different proportions than its predecessors. Because a bulk of the car’s weight is now located more centrally, the C8 should (in theory) offer better traction and balance.
Few cars have undergone such large changes to their fundamental design philosophy, but the move appears to have worked—production is far from meeting demand.
The S-Class from Mercedes is widely recognized as the global benchmark for full-size luxury sedans. Since its introduction in the 1950s, the S-Class has continuously introduced new innovations that improve comfort and safety.
- The 1959 S-Class (dubbed W111) was the first production car with crumple zones front and rear. Crumple zones are structural elements that absorb the impact of a collision.
- The 1978 S-Class (W116) introduced electronic anti-lock brakes (ABS). This system prevents tires from locking up under sudden braking and is included on every modern car.
- The 1991 S-Class (W140) was the first car to feature double-glazed windows, which improves insulation while reducing road noise.
- The 2021 S-Class (W223) introduced the world’s first rear-seat airbag.
One of the most important aspects of a luxury car is its interior, and the S-class has come a long way since its first iteration.
The interior of the latest S-Class features active ambient lighting that can visually reinforce any warnings generated by the car’s driving assistance systems. The cabin also features MBUX Interior Assist, which can read motion commands (such as hand movements) by the driver.
The car’s center console is dominated by a single large screen—a trend that was first introduced by the Tesla Model S.
Big Changes in Store
Global governments have announced a ban on the sale of new gasoline cars by as early as 2030. This foreshadows a great shift towards battery power and gives automakers the opportunity to reimagine their most iconic models.
For example, the Ford Mustang Mach-E is an all-electric SUV that borrows both the name and styling of the brand’s famous pony car. The company also recently launched an electric version of the F-150, called the F-150 Lightning.
German brands are taking a different approach by creating a completely new range for their EV models. This includes the Audi e-tron, BMW i, and Mercedes EQ lineups. This implies that their existing gasoline-powered models could be coming to an end.
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