What did vehicle consumers buy 30, 20, 10 years ago and last year? Little by little, we are starting to get the results for the whole of 2023. While we are waiting for the global picture (some key markets such as China and the United States have not yet sent in their data), we already have some interesting results from other key markets, such as Italy, France, Spain, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

The following data shows the evolution of new car registrations by body type according to JATO (and light commercial vehicles in the case of Brazil) for the years 1993, 2003, 2013 and 2023.

Car body type evolution for Italian market

More SUVs at the expense of fewer small cars and saloons

The first notable trend over the last 30 years is the increase in the share of SUVs. In Italy, these vehicles barely existed in 1993, with a market share of 1%. At that time, their registrations totalled 19,700 units. Ten years later, this figure had risen almost sixfold to 110,300 units. Then, in 2013, SUV registrations reached 232,000 units. Last year, they accounted for 55% of new car registrations in Italy, with 868,000 units.

Car body type evolution for French market

The impressive growth in the share of SUVs has come at the expense of small cars. Italy has traditionally been a big market for small cars, but this is changing radically. In 1993, these cars accounted for 59% of registrations, with 1 million units. The market share fell to 51% in 2003 and to 40% in 2013. Last year, small cars accounted for 24% of new registrations.

The same applies to the UK, France and Spain. Between 1993 and 2023, the share of SUVs rose from 3% to 58%, from 1% to 47% and from 6% to 60% respectively.

The rise and fall of MPVs

Car body type evolution for Spanish market

Meanwhile, demand for MPVs and vans has undergone an interesting evolution. In 1993, this body type was not very popular, with most of the range consisting of unattractive boxy vans. At best, their market share in France was 3%. In the late 1990s, they became a fashionable vehicle after French carmakers began introducing the Renault Scenic and Citroën Xsara Picasso. By 2003, their market share had risen to 11% in Spain, 20% in France, 10% in the UK and 11% in Italy.

Growth came to a halt with the arrival of SUVs on the market in the late 2000s, and has since declined. Last year, the share of these vehicles reached 2% in Spain, France and Italy, and only 1% in the UK.

Car body type evolution for UK market

The role of small vans in Brazil

Europe is not alone in undergoing major changes. Brazil is the largest market in Latin America and the cradle of small vehicles. In 2003, small cars dominated with a 51% market share. They were followed by saloons (19%) and city cars (9%). In 2013, hatchbacks were still in the lead, but their market share had fallen to 39%, while SUVs and pick-ups came second and third, with 24% and 12% respectively.

Car body type evolution for Brazilian market

Last year, more than a third of new registrations of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles were SUVs, while the share of small cars was 22%, just 3 points higher than the market share of vans.

The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is an automotive industry specialist at JATO Dynamics.