This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
The automotive sector is one of Italy’s major industries and employs 278,000. Last available data (February 2021) showed that in 2020, the automotive sector’s turnover was €106.1 billion, which was 11% of Italy’s manufacturing turnover and 6.2% of Italy’s GDP. The conversion from thermal engines to electromobility (hybrid and electric) is reshaping the sector and may offer opportunities for U.S. vehicle component, charging infrastructure, and diagnostic equipment manufacturers. Major changes in the circulating stock may also drive the development of the aftermarket sector in Italy.
In 2021, 797,243 vehicles (443,819 cars, 290,021 light commercial vehicles, and 63,403 trucks and buses) were produced in Italy, a 2.6% increase over 2020. 1,457,952 new cars, 5.5% more than in the prior year, were registered in 2021. The leading brands were the Stellantis Group (37.82% of the market), followed by the Volkswagen Group (16.52%), and the Renault Group (11.48%). In January 2021, FCA and PSA merged and became Stellantis, the world’s fourth largest automotive group, with 551,421 units registered in Italy in 2021 compared to 537,071 units for FCA and PSA in 2020 (or 38.88% of the market). 80,989 units by Ford Motor Company were registered in 2021 (5.55% of the market), and 89,573 in 2020 (6.48% of the market). 6,045 Tesla cars were registered in 2021 (0.41% of the market) and 3,805 cars in 2020 (0.28% of the market).
In 2021, following what seems to be a long-term trend, gasoline and diesel car registrations continued to fall significantly, while registrations for alternative fuel cars grew. By fuel, the market shares were gasoline cars (30%), hybrid cars (29%), diesel cars (22.6%), gas (LPG and methane-fueled) cars (9.5%), and rechargeable cars (electric + plug-in hybrid) (9.4%).
In numbers, sales of gasoline cars reached 437,069 units (16.4% fewer than in 2020) and sales of diesel cars reached 323,037 units (28.6% fewer than in 2020). Total alternative-fueled vehicles reached 698,215 units compared to 406,926 units in 2020 (a 71.6% increase). While sales of LPG cars reached 106,834 units (14.3% over 2020), sales of methane-fueled cars fell slightly (down 0.5% to 31,418 units). There was a sharp growth in sales of hybrid cars, 422,783 units (up 90.5% compared to 2020), and of rechargeable vehicles,137,170 units (up 129% compared to 2020). Only ten hydrogen vehicles were sold. Sales of light commercial vehicles (up to 3.5. tons) reached 183,625 units in 2021 (15.1% more than in 2020). However, most recent data (August 2022) shows that the market is still weak: 2022 sales through August decreased 18.4% compared to 2021. All subcategories shrank, especially methane, diesel, and gasoline vehicles.
National incentives for purchasing less-polluting vehicles (higher for electric and hybrid cars and lower for traditional thermal cars) and limits on the entry of thermal cars into city centers are helping to drive the transition to electric and hybrid vehicles. These national incentives vary according to polluting level, measured in terms of CO2 emissions per km (0.62 miles) of the car and are valid through 2024. Financial support is received upon purchase of a new vehicle and varies depending on whether the old vehicle is scrapped. They are expected to sustainably increase mobility and stimulate the automotive market; however, incentives to buy electric vehicles are not enough to support this change in mobility.
A suitable charging infrastructure is needed to allow people to charge their vehicles quickly and safely. The number of charging points in Italy is growing rapidly (30,704 units in June 2022 compared to 23,275 units in June 2021), but the infrastructure is quite concentrated and mostly located in six Italian regions (Lombardy, Piedmont, Latium, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, and Tuscany), limiting use of these vehicles outside the areas with charging infrastructure.
The circulating stock of hybrid and electric cars (versus 40 million cars total) in Italy in 2021 almost doubled between 2020 and 2021 (from almost 600,000 to 1,150,000). The development of electric models is changing investments by component manufacturers. A recent survey showed that almost 30% of component manufacturers had electric and/or hybrid vehicles as their main production focus.
The two- and three-wheeler sector in Italy produces annually about 300,000 units (291,775 units in 2020).
Italy is one of the most important European markets for motorcycles. In 2021, motorcycle sales totaled 289,067 vehicles (21.2% more than in 2020), making Italy first in Europe. Sales of smaller motorcycles (under 50cc) were just 18,835 units, a 4.7% decrease compared to 2020. In 2021, sales of electric motorbikes reached 10,848 units, slightly more (0.5%) than in 2020. The need for individual mobility and the lower purchase and operating costs compared to cars have boosted this market.
2022 data through June indicate a slightly reduced market (161,541 units, down 2.8% compared to 2021). Sales of smaller motorcycles grew 19.8% over 2021 and sales of electric vehicles (9,171 units) grew 82.2%. National financial incentives to buy electric and hybrid vehicles will be in place through 2024.
Small importers dominate the distribution channels in the market for automotive accessories and specialty equipment. U.S. products and new technology are well received and accepted by local companies. Competition from local and foreign competitors is strong in most business areas, but opportunities exist for products with cutting-edge technology. Major changes in the circulating stock will likely affect the automotive aftermarket sector. Some experts believe that the different features of hybrid (especially electric) vehicles will increase the need for diagnostic and testing tools.
The aftermarkets for the motorcycle and automotive sectors feature broadly similar distribution channels. However, customers in the motorcycle sector require different high-tech content and design features when buying helmets, suits, boots, etc. There is also a sizable market for custom motorcycles.
Opportunities exist for electric vehicle (EV) software systems, including charging station software; EV battery technologies; EVs; electric and hybrid bicycles, scooters and motorcycles; diagnostics and testing instruments, and vehicle technology.
Motor Bike Expo, Verona, January 27–29, 2023
EICMA (bicycles and motorcycles), Milan, November 2023
Autopromotec, Bologna, May 21-24, 2025
Andrea Rosa (Mr.), Automotive Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service, U.S. Consulate Milan
Tel: +39 02 6268 8523