Was 2018 the peak for internal-combustion car sales?


2018 Tesla Model 3 Long-Range RWD

2018 Tesla Model 3 Long-Range RWD

Electric-car sales are growing. Total car sales around the world are shrinking.

Put the two together, and the conclusion from many analysts is that sales of cars powered by internal combustion engines around the world have already peaked.

From 2019 onward, they're likely to do nothing but shrink, according to several automotive analysts interviewed in the Financial Times (subscription required) for a piece published late last month.

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The FT quotes several analytics firms forecasting that global auto sales will fall in 2019 compared with a record 95.5 million cars sold in 2018, according to Moody's Analytics.

There are several factors at play: an international trade war among the U.S., China, and Europe; tighter consumer credit in the world's largest auto market, China; troubled Brexit negotiations; and tighter European restrictions on carbon-dioxide emissions.

Other analytics firms, including Evercore ISI, Accenture, and Jato Dynamics told the FT that they expect a structural downturn in 2019, based on slower sales in the second half of 2018.

READ MORE: Tesla cuts prices $2,000, almost hit 250,000 vehicles in 2018

At the same time, sales of electric cars are rising. AlixPartners, a British consulting service, says it expects electric car sales to grow by 1.5 million in 2019, reaching about 1.6 percent of the global market.

"Peak ICE" may already have occurred at the end of 2018, Elmer Kades, global co-leader of AlixPartners' automotive practice told the FT. “It’s this slowing growth of the overall pie that the industry should be most concerned with, even as it has to ... pay for the continuing switchover to electric vehicles.”

CHECK OUT: Nothing comes close to Tesla: 2018 Q3 plug-in sales

Sales of electric cars in China nearly doubled in 2018, from 405,000 to 793,000, while sales of internal-combustion cars dropped from 18.7 million to 18 million.

The same thing is happening in the U.S., albeit not as dramatically.  Total car sales in the U.S. fell from a peak of 17.5 million in 2016 to 17.3 million in 2018. In the meantime, the share of plug-in cars doubled. Electric cars have won more than 7 percent market share in California, and sales of plug-in cars are more than 10 percent of the California market.

Sales of the Tesla Model 3 almost doubled the number of electric cars sold in the U.S. in previous years.

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