The unprecedented challenging times that the auto industry faced last year led to an unprecedented financial result for the majority of the OEMs from Europe, USA, Japan and South Korea. This is the first conclusion from a detailed study of the financial reports published by 19 car makers around the world. The information indicates that there were fewer cars sold compared to the pre-pandemic levels but more profits.

According to the financial statements from Aston Martin, BMW Group, Daimler, Ferrari, Ford, Geely Group, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and Kia, Isuzu, Mazda, Renault-Nissan, Stellantis, Subaru, Suzuki, Tata Group, Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen Group, the revenue totalled 1.74 trillion euro, up by 13% compared to 2020, but down by 6% compared to 2019. Interestingly, the units sold did not follow the same pattern.

Global financial result of OEMs from 2019 to 2021 graphic

In 2021, these companies sold 69.54 million vehicles, which was 2% more than in 2020, and 14% less than in 2019. This means that the car makers increased prices or reduced the discounts during the year. It is partly explained by the lack of new cars available following the chip shortage during a big part of 2021. Fewer cars available and an increasing demand after months of lockdown forced the car prices up.

Actually, the average revenue per unit sold in 2021 was 25,073 euro, up by 11% and 10% compared to 2020 and 2019 respectively.

Focus on the most profitable segments

Further down in the financial statements, the operating profits showed another interesting fact. Despite the pandemic impact on the global economies, and the difficulties producing cars, these 19 OEMs earned more money than in 2020 and 2019.

The earnings generated by the operations of the companies (total revenue minus the production costs and the administrative and sales expenses) totalled 132.37 billion euro in 2021. In other words, from $100 generated in sales, these companies kept $7.6 as earnings.

Operating profits 2021 by OEM graphic

In contrast, in 2020, when the worst of the pandemic took place, they earned $3.6 for every $100 in sales. In 2019, the operating profits were $5.1. The increase looks also impressive when comparing the total operating profits to the total number of cars sold. The earnings dropped from 1,168 euro/car in 2019 to 811 euro in 2020, and jumped to 1,903 euro last year.

The focus on SUVs and Electrified Vehicles helped these OEMs to offset the big loses coming from their ICE cars. As they did not have enough semi-conductors for the production of cars, they simply used the very few they had to build the vehicles that had more chances to be sold thanks to the incentives (EVs) or that are more appealing to customers (SUVs).

Operating margin of OEMs 2019 to 2021 graphic

Ferrari is still the cash cow in the industry

Ferrari continues to be the most profitable maker by far. Its operating margin increased from 21.4% in 2020 to 25.5% last year. Based on the figures, Il Cavallino earned 97,530 euro per unit sold in 2021 (operating profits). The second closer was Tesla with 6,154 euro per car.