How big is the automotive industry in the U.S.? 2024

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In 2022, more than 81.6 million new vehicles were sold or registered globally. That year, the U.S. automotive industry added $587.7 billion to the country’s GDP. A 2023 survey revealed that 75% of respondents in the U.S. had a personal car. However, in 2022, U.S. new vehicle sales and registrations dropped 7.6% from the previous year, a decrease more than five times that of the world average.

Key insights

In 2022, over 81.6 million new vehicles were sold or registered globally.

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In 2022, the U.S. auto industry added $587.7 billion to the country’s GDP.

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In October 2023, the U.S. auto industry employed more than 4.5 million workers.

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The COVID-19 pandemic battered the U.S. auto industry in 2020, at one point causing the shutdown of 89% of the country’s auto plants and resulting in a nearly 99% decrease in automobile production between March and April of 2020.

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Number of vehicles sold by country

More than 81.6 million new vehicles were sold or registered globally in 2022, the most recent year with available data. This was an increase from 2020, when sales and registrations dropped just under 78.8 million during the COVID-19 pandemic, but remained below the 2019 level of 91.2 million vehicles.

In 2022, China had the highest number of new vehicle registrations and sales at nearly 26.9 million vehicles. The U.S. experienced the second-highest number with over 14.2 million vehicles.

U.S. vehicle sales over the last 10 years

During the decade between 2012 and 2021, the latest year with available data, new vehicle deliveries or sales rose from a low of around 14.8 million, in 2012, to a high of nearly 17.9 million, in 2016. Between 2019 and 2020, deliveries or sales dropped roughly 15% in the midst of the pandemic, from nearly 17.5 million to around 14.9 million, respectively, and recovered slightly in 2021 to 15.4 million.

Automotive industry career statistics

In October of 2023, the U.S. automotive industry employed over 4.5 million workers spread across manufacturing operations, wholesalers, dealers, and repair and maintenance professionals.

Employment by job industry

*Not seasonally adjusted; Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

In May 2022, the latest month with available detailed career statistics, the automotive industry employed 889,060 workers in installation, repair, and maintenance roles; 47,350 in engineering roles; 835,360 in sales positions; and 397,030 as assemblers and fabricators.

  • Nearly 64% of automotive industry workers were between the ages of 25 and 54 years old. Only 12% of workers were below the age of 25, while about 24% were ages 55 or older.
  • Women accounted for just over 20% of the automotive industry workforce.

Fifty-two percent of roles in the automotive industry made average yearly salaries of $46,000 or less. The lowest-earning 6% of these roles had average salaries of less than $30,000 a year, with a minimum average salary of $22,980 for laundry and dry-cleaning workers. The top-earning, 0.03%, roles earned average salaries of more than $280,000. Chief executives in the auto dealer industry commanded an average salary of $323,960.

  • Forty-nine percent of installation, repair and maintenance roles had average annual salaries of less than $50,000. The highest-earning role, heavy equipment mechanics, earned an average salary of $74,980.
  • Seventy percent of engineering roles had average yearly salaries of less than $100,000. Electronics engineers, making up 0.8% of all auto industry engineering workers, had the top average salary at $121,000.
  • Eighty-four percent of sales roles earned average annual salaries of less than $60,000. The top-earning 0.5% of sales roles had average salaries between $107,900 and $137,200.
  • Assembly and fabrication roles earned average salaries ranging from $24,960 to $59,640 with 51% of roles averaging less than $50,000.

Automotive industry and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic was a major blow to the automotive industry. Automotive companies began shutting down their production plants in the middle of March 2020. As of May 6, 2020, it was estimated that 89% of U.S. auto assembly plants had shut down due to the pandemic.

In February of 2020, U.S. domestic passenger automobile sales numbered 267,000. In March, that number dropped to 208,100, and in April, sales plunged to 124,900 — a roughly 40% drop.

Production of U.S. passenger automobiles saw an even more drastic decrease. In February of 2020, domestic auto production totaled 221,200 vehicles. Production in March dropped to 151,500 and then plummeted to 1,800 in April — a staggering nearly 99% reduction. Production then began to rise after the April low, reaching 206,400 vehicles in October.

As plants began to reopen and production resumed throughout 2020, automobile producers faced a second challenge in the form of a global semiconductor chip shortage. During the slowdown in automobile production, chip manufacturers sought out other industries in need of their products.

By the time the auto industry was ready to resume production, many of their suppliers no longer had the capacity to produce the chips necessary for motor vehicles, leading to a prolonged shortage across the industry. Plant closures, chip shortages and various other factors have kept production from fully resuming pre-pandemic levels.

FAQ

How many people are employed by the U.S. automotive industry?

In October, 2023, the U.S. auto industry employed over 4.5 million workers.

How many cars are produced in the U.S.?

In 2021, manufacturers in the U.S. produced 1,563,000 passenger vehicles and 7,594,000 commercial vehicles.

What country sells the most automobiles?

In 2022, China had the most automobile sales at 26,863,745 vehicles. The U.S. had the second-highest sales at 14,230,324.


References

  1. "Motor vehicles.” U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Evaluated Jan. 10, 2024. Link Here
  2. "U.Value Added by Industry.” U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Evaluated Jan. 10, 2024. Link Here
  3. "Automotive industry in the United States - statistics and facts.” Statista. Evaluated Jan. 10, 2024. Link Here
  4. “Sales Statistics.” International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA). Evaluated Jan. 10, 2024. Link Here
  5. “U.S. Sales or Deliveries of New Aircraft, Vehicles, Vessels, and Other Conveyances.” U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Evaluated Jan. 10, 2024. Link Here
  6. “World Motor Vehicle Production, Selected Countries.” U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Evaluated Jan. 10, 2024. Link Here
  7. “Automotive Industry: Employment, Earnings, and Hours.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Evaluated Jan 10., 2023. Link Here
  8. “All data.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Evaluated Jan. 10, 2023. Link Here
  9. “18b. Employed persons by detailed industry and age.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Evaluated Jan. 10, 2023. Link Here
  10. “18. Employed persons by detailed industry, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Evaluated Jan. 10, 2023. Link Here
  11. “Reading the Meter May 6, 2020.” Alliance for Automotive Innovation. Evaluated Jan. 10, 2024. Link Here
  12. Coffin, D. et al. “The Roadblocks of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the U.S. Automotive Industry.” U.S. International Trade Commission. Evaluated Jan. 10, 2023. Link Here

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