Automotive industry trends: China dominates globally

01 May 2018

Pi’s latest marketing intelligence report analyses global automotive industry trends over the last four years, highlighting the most organically valuable search terms and manufacturers around the world.

Looking at the top countries for car production, we’ve collected a range of data from Google and Baidu to reveal which brands are dominating search in each country. We also assess how external factors can affect search trends and market share.


China dominates the globally

In the last seven years, China has surpassed all other countries and taken the lead in global car production, ranking as the largest car manufacturer in the world, with 24.8m cars produced in 2017. Their dominance can most likely be attributed to their large population. Likewise, the US and Japan have high populations and follow closely behind.

What else can we learn from search data about global automotive industry trends?

  • Although Asian manufactured car brands perform best globally, European models do surprisingly well in China and Japan.
  • Car brands in China are searched 60% more than the US, and a staggering 628% more than the UK.
  • The US and China dominate the majority of single search terms.

When we omit Chinese data, however, the US emerges as the most valuable country by a vast amount.

Download the full report here.

The US is a hugely competitive global market

We trended the global searches of all automotive brands combined, to discover the countries with the highest search volume and value. This data was tracked in:

Germany (Google DE)
France (Google FR)
UK (Google UK)
Sweden (Google SE)
US (Google US)
Japan (Google JP)

Search volume alone doesn’t always indicate value. Pi’s Organic Value Score averages out all of the metrics critical to conversion, to reflect the true value of search. When we overlay our OVS here, value in the US is even more apparent.

Download the full report here.


‘Toyota’ is the most searched automotive brand

Globally, Toyota is the most searched car brand, vastly outperforming the other 11 brands selected. We can see that it's mostly being searched in China, Japan and the US - it could be that the size of the country is a factor here, as other brands are performing better in smaller countries.

Download the full report here.

Which automotive brands dominate in search globally and why?

If we focus on brands within the global market, we can see Honda, Toyota and Tesla are the most searched.

When we overlay our Organic Value Score however, Hyundai replaces Tesla in the top three. We can interpret this shift in performance to mean that Hyundai's brand terms are more globally valuable and competitive than Tesla's, which offsets its comparatively lower search volume.

Looking at this search trend data, we can start to explore and identify any external factors affecting global demand:

  • Tesla has seen an increase since 2014, with some impressive peaks with the reveal of their Model 3 in 2016, and the order fulfillment issues in 2017.
  • Volkswagen peaks dramatically in 2015 after an emissions scandal went public.


Which sites perform globally for automotive brand searches?

Wikipedia has the most share of voice globally for automotive brand searches, but car magazine site,, has the most diverse car brand content - will this performance result in a stronger chance of brands advertising with this site.

A number of brands (BMW, Audi, Toyota and Hyundai) have multiple websites performing in the top 30 globally. Each site has its own share of voice, meaning its competing with other regional counterparts. Would it be better to consolidate these region based brand sites?


Download the full report here.
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