The global auto industry can have several faces according to location. Although the concept is pretty much the same everywhere – going to point A to point B – the shape of the vehicle can change quite much in every market. Some of them can be available everywhere. Others are only visible on the roads of specific markets, while others are exclusive to specific countries.

As the world economies get more connected and dependent on each other, the car industry had rapidly developed the so-called global car. They are basically a unique concept of vehicle designed for a public in many locations.

In contrast, there are cars that are conceived, designed, and developed for only one market. These are the ones that you won’t likely see on your street. Why do they exist even if they don’t have a global appeal?

A cultural thing

North Americans love their big trucks. They have had them for decades, and they are part not only of the landscape and the roads, but of the idea of driving and transport. The Ford F-Series, Ram pickups, and the Chevy Silverado family, are just three examples of vehicles that were exclusively projected for the drivers in USA.

The vehicles that are barely exported, where they are mainly sold, sales in 2021 - graphic

They simply love them because they are big, capable, and useful enough. They represent 14% of the vehicle sales in USA, and 18% in Canada. But that’s it. You won’t see these big things anywhere else, except for some Middle East countries, or some specific imports made in South America. They are just too big and useless in the rest of the world.

Another case is for the big luxury MPVs in China. They are simply too boring, expensive, and big for the majority of the roads outside this Asian nation. While MPVs as a segment lost a lot of traction in markets like USA and Europe, the Chinese consumers keep demanding them, especially the luxury and massive ones.

In South America, there is the case of the small pickup. Brazil is a big market for these vehicles, considering the prominent farming activities around the country, the poor road conditions, and the low purchase power of the population. This is why vehicles like the Fiat Strada, Volkswagen Saveiro or Chevrolet Montana are so popular there. Where else do you see further away from South America? Nowhere.

It is pretty much the same case for estates or station wagons in Europe. Although you can also see these cars in market like the United States and China, it is becoming more difficult to buy one if you are not in Europe. The reason? They are considered boring family cars. Today, around 64% of the estates sold worldwide remain in Europe.

Car body-types market share by market in 2021 - graphic

Regulation plays another part

There are other reasons why you simply don’t see certain cars in other nations. Regulation is one of them. In order to protect their own industry, the countries create specific rules to boost the local production and penalise imports. The Japanese kei-car is the best example.

A dedicated taxation and generous incentives on the purchase, have made these tiny cars the most common thing to see on the roads of Japan. These cars represented 30% of the total passenger car sales in Japan last year. The problem is that the local production is strongly focused on them, and is becoming quite isolated when it is about aligning to the global trends. The totality of these cars remain in Japan.

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