Performance Study

Profits in Overdrive

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    • For the car industry, 2016 was a stellar year, with record-breaking numbers. The biggest winner was Toyota, which made a larger profit than General Motors and Volkswagen combined.
  • Facts


    • The three most profitable car companies, Toyota, Daimler and General Motors, accounted for 40 percent of industry profits.
    • The 17 largest car companies achieved the highest overall profit in history, an increase of €10 billion over the previous year.
    • Toyota, which is more valuable than all American automakers combined, owes much of its success to cost efficiency.
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Autosalon Genf
The Geneva Car Show, held last March, had no shortage of visitors. Photo: Uli Deck/dpa

Hurdles abound for carmakers, from protectionism to digitalization. Yet their numbers have rarely looked so good.

Last week, Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche presented his shareholders with outstanding figures. Despite stiff competition and massive investments in cutting-edge technology, the Stuttgart-based manufacturer increased profits by 1.2 percent to €8.5 billion in the last fiscal year.

Daimler is just one example in the booming auto industry, according to a new study obtained by the Center of Automotive Management (CAM) at the Fachhochschule der Wirtschaft business school in Bergisch Gladbach near Cologne.

The world’s 17 largest car companies generated a profit of €104 billion ($111 billion) in 2016, according to the report, which has Handelsblatt has obtained. That is €10 billion more than in the previous year, and the highest overall gain in history.

“Automotive manufacturers have profited from seven huge years and have also reduced their costs,” CAM Director Stefan Bratzel told Handelsblatt, noting that the three most profitable companies – Toyota, Daimler and General Motors – accounted for 40 percent of the profits.

Sales also increased by 2.3 percent to 78.1 million vehicles. That too is a record.

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