Continuing changes in global car consumer demand are producing some clear winners and losers over the last few years. As the demand of light vehicles continues to face challenges and the economies around the world get ready for an upcoming recession, there’s one particular segment that is in serious trouble, the sport cars.

The figures are very clear. Over the last 7 years, the global sales of the sport cars, including coupes, convertibles, targa, supercars and hypercars, have dropped by 34%, falling from 570,000 units in 2015 to just 375,000 units last year.

The drop is therefore not a consequence of the pandemic only, as the annual decrease has been happening since 2016, accelerated in 2020. In other words, sport cars recorded their lowest annual sales last year since at least 2014, when I started gathering the information.

The reasons

The main reason for this worrying situation is the lack of interest on these cars from the consumers in China. In contrast to the strong sales of saloons and SUVs, or even MPVs, sport cars barely catch attention.

What sports cars people buy - graphic

They made up 0.07% of China’s light vehicle sales in 2021, to almost 18,000 units. That’s pretty low compared to the 9.73 million SUVs and the 8.38 million saloons. Without China, sport cars are condemned to become a niche segment.

However, they still have the US car market, their largest by far. In 2021, the consumers in this country bought almost 220,000 sport cars, down by 3% compared to 2020, but still much more in terms of share when compared to China, at 1.5%. The US volume represented 59% of the global demand of these vehicles, followed by Germany and Japan.

World's top 10 largest sports car markets in 2021 graphic

In Europe, they are also having issues. The demand in 2021 totalled almost 71,000 units, down by 9% vs 2020, and counting for just 0.49%.

Another reason for their sales drop over the years is related to the SUV boom. Although these vehicles are not a direct competitor to sport cars, the arrival of more sporty models, also known as coupe SUVs, and the super SUVs, have stolen sales away from the traditional coupes and cabriolets. Last year, a total of 3.05 million of this kind of SUVs were sold, up by 19%.

Global sports car sales - graphic

The pony cars and Porsche lead the segment

Ford, Chevrolet, Porsche, and Dodge were the leading brands in the sport car segment in 2021. In the case of the American brands, it was mostly due to the popularity of the pony cars in USA. The Ford Mustang was the world’s most popular sport car with 69,600 units, followed by the Dodge Challenger. Chevrolet sold fewer Camaros, but the Corvette did quite well, with its volume up by 53%.

In the case of Porsche, most of the sales corresponded to the iconic 911, which continues to sell well. Further down, Mazda increased the sales of the MX-5, and Ferrari impressed thanks to the Roma, Lexus with the LC, and the Aston Martin Vantage.

The remaining question is: will they survive CO2 regulation and the electrification of the industry without the volume contribution of China?

World's best-selling sports car brands and model in 2021 graphic

The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is an Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO Dynamics.