A: Chinese Vehicle Stock

China’s vehicle stock has grown at an extraordinary pace in the past three decades, along with the nation’s GDP. In 1990, China had just 5.5 million registered motor vehicles. At the end of 2021, this figure had risen to over 395 million.2

In 2021, 21 million new motor vehicles were sold in China, down from a high of 24 million in 2017,3 making it the world’s largest vehicle market by far. (The United States was second, with roughly 17 million vehicles sold in 2019, and under 15 million annually in 2020–2021.4) China’s 2021 sales represented the first year of positive overall growth since 2018.5 Vehicle sales peaked in 2018 at over 28 million. Passenger vehicles accounted for 21 million, showing growth in 2021 but also still below the peak in 2019.6 SUVs and crossovers have shown strong growth in market share reaching 46% in 2021 despite fuel economy regulations.7

China’s vehicle stock is projected to grow significantly in the years ahead.8 At present, there is roughly one motor vehicle for every four people in China, compared with more than one motor vehicle for every two people in the European Union and almost one motor vehicle for every person in the US.10

China has more than 100 vehicle manufacturers.1 Many of these vehicle manufacturers are owned or heavily supported by provincial and local governments.

Traffic congestion is a major problem in many Chinese cities. Beijing, Chongqing, Changchun, Guiyang and Shanghai were rated the worst cities for traffic congestion in 2021.11


National Bureau of Statistics of China, “National Data,” (5.5 million vehicles in 1990); Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers, “截至2021年底,全国新能源汽车保有量达784万辆,其中纯电动汽车保有量640万辆,” (January 13, 2021) (in Chinese).
Bart Demandt, “China Car Sales Analysis 2021,” Car Sales Base (January 2022).
Good Car Bad Car, “U.S. Auto Industry Sales Analysis,” (accessed June 9, 2022).
China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, “2021年12月汽车工业产销综述 [December 2021 Automotive Industry Production and Consumption Summary],” (January 13, 2022) (in Chinese).
Bart Demandt, “China Car Sales Analysis 2021,” Car Sales Base (January 2022).
Bart Demandt, “China Car Sales Analysis 2021,” Car Sales Base (January 2022).
US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Number of U.S. Aircraft, Vehicles, Vessels, and Other Conveyances (accessed June 3, 2020) (276 million registered highway vehicles in the United States in 2020). European Automobile Manufacturers Association, Vehicles in Use – Europe (January 2021) at p.9 (278 million motor vehicles in the EU in 2019); World Bank Data (accessed June 3, 2022) (in 2020, China population = 1.4 billion, US population = 332 million); Eurostat News Release (July 10, 2019) (513 million people in the EU in 2019).
Beijing Transport Institute, 2021 China Urban Transportation Report (2021) (in Chinese).

Guide to Chinese Climate Policy