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Germany 1931-1938: Opel ultra dominant with the 1.2 Liter, P4 and Kadett

The Opel 1.2 Liter was the best-selling vehicle in Germany in the early 1930s.

Thanks to one of our readers Jakub Gurba and the book “Deutsche Autos” by Werner Oswald, we can share with you today sales data by brand for Germany from 1931 to 1938. See all Historical Data articles for Germany here. The German market was still affected by the worldwide crisis in 1931 with just 51.035 registrations, falling further to 38.916 in 1932 but bouncing back up afterwards: up to 79.357 in 1933, 126.898 in 1934, 177.298 in 1935 and 211.955 in 1936. It then stabilised at 215.069 in 1937 and 217.342 in 1938. Note these figures only include domestic carmakers, not imports.

The Opel P4 was Germany’s most popular car in 1936.

The decade was totally dominated by Opel which ranked #1 every single year, starting with a 31.6% market share in 1931 and improving to 35.9% in 1933, 41.4% in 1934 and 43.5% in 1935. Then its share started to erode to 40.8% in 1936, 35.2% in 1937 before perking back up to 37.7% in 1938. Note Opel became the first German car manufacturer to incorporate a mass-production assembly line in the building of their cars in the early 1920s, and in 1929 General Motors acquired 80% of the company, increasing to 100% in 1931. This means the most popular carmaker in Germany throughout the 1930s and in the lead up to World War II was fully American-owned. In 1935, Opel became the first “German” car manufacturer to produce over 100.000 vehicles a year.

The Opel Kadett took the relay in 1937.

Although no model data is available for the period, the success of Opel then relied on three main models across the decade. The 1.2 Liter was produced from 1931 to 1935, replacing the last version of the Opel Laubfrosch. It was Opel’s best-seller from 1932 to 1935 when it was replaced by the Opel P4. Most elements remained the same though, apart from a new grille and new engine. Thanks to a reduced price, the P4 sold even better than the 1.2 Liter and reached 40.405 cars produced in 1936, its best year. The total production between 1931 and 1937 of the 1.2-litre and P4 models together was 173.027. In 1937 the P4 production was drastically reduced to make way for the much more modern Kadett which launched in late 1936. The Kadett is estimated to be Germany’s best seller in 1937 and 1938.

Hanomag 3/16 PS

What were the other manufacturers popular over the period? Hanomag started the decade in 2nd place with 10.4% share thanks to the 3/16 PS but then dropped to #6 in 1932 and remained between #5 and #7 for the rest of the decade. Mercedes climbed to #2 and 13.7% share in 1932, then dropped to #3 in 1933 and #4 in 1934 and 1935 before reclaiming its spot on the podium from 1936 to 1938. DKW rose to 2nd place and 13% share in 1933 and would hold the same spot for the rest of the decade, peaking at 19.6% share in 1937. Adler is another successful marque in German in the 1930s, starting from #3 and 8.7% share in 1931 and oscillating from #3 to #4 until 1938 when it dropped to #5, toppled by Ford (#4), which reached its best ranking of the decade that year. BMW ranked #5 in 1932 and 1933 and Wanderer was #6 in 1937 and 1938.

DKW F7. DKW was the #2 brand in Germany from 1933 to 1938.The Adler 2.5 Liter was a sensation when presented at the Berlin Auto Show in 1937.

Full Top 20 All-brands ranking for each year from 1931 to 1938 below.

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