BASF Report 2021

Trends in Key Customer Industries

Growth in industrial production was negatively impacted by supply difficulties in 2021. In many areas, existing orders could not be processed due to a lack of intermediate goods. Transport capacities, especially ship and container capacities in overseas trade, were not sufficient to meet the sharp rise in demand for industrial goods. Furthermore, manufacturing disruptions in Asia due to regional lockdowns were also a factor.

Global industrial production grew by 6.5% in 2021 (2020: –3.0%). The advanced economies saw somewhat lower growth of 5.3% overall than the emerging markets, which saw a rise of 7.4%. The largest contribution to global industrial production growth came from China (2021: +8.4%; 2020: +3.7%). Around 30% of global industrial value creation and almost 40% of its growth were generated there. In total, over 50% of global industrial growth came from Asia. The region’s production expanded by 7.5% in 2021 (2020: –0.1%).

In the E.U., industrial production also increased significantly by 6.6% (2020: –7.1%). After the sharp decline in the previous year, the United Kingdom saw growth of 8.3% (2020: –10.4%). By contrast, North America’s industrial growth was below average at 5.0% (2020: –4.8%). South America recorded an increase just above the global average (2021: 7.0%; 2020: –6.5%).

Growth in key customer industries (Real change compared with previous year)




Industry total






Of which: automotive industry



Energy and resources






Consumer goods






Health and nutrition






Global automotive production was particularly affected by supply problems with semiconductors. Although base effects ensured strong growth at the beginning of the year, the shortage in semiconductors worsened so significantly in the second half of the year that many automotive manufacturers had to respond by cutting production or even temporarily shutting down entire plants. As a result, automotive production grew only slightly overall by 2.5% in 2021 after contracting by 15.9% in the previous year. Production levels remained exceptionally low, with a total of around 76 million vehicles produced worldwide. Similarly low production volumes had last been recorded in the early 2010s. Moderate growth was achieved in Asia (+5.1%). The North American market stagnated (+0.1%). In the E.U., by contrast, production decreased by 6.2% in 2021, following a decline of nearly 25% in 2020. Of all the regions, South America achieved the highest growth rate; however, it saw the strongest decrease in the previous year (2021: +16.1%; 2020: –31.1%).

The construction industry expanded by around 4% (2020: –1.1%) despite a sharp rise in prices for scarce building materials. Growth was strongest in residential construction at almost 6%. Here, the rising demand for housing during the pandemic played a key role; furthermore, government transfers and persistently low interest rates strengthened the purchasing power of private households. Growth in residential construction was particularly high in the United States. Residential construction in Europe grew only slightly above the overall market average. In China, on the other hand, residential construction cooled significantly in the wake of the government’s efforts to limit real estate prices and debt. Commercial construction investments remained weak with growth of less than 3%. Growth in the less volatile infrastructure segment was also below average at around 3%.

After a decline of 2.7% in the previous year, consumer goods production grew by a total of 9.0%. High growth rates between around 9% and 13% were recorded in the furniture and textile industries as well as in the production of electrical appliances. Expansion in the care products sector was, by contrast, more modest at 4.3%. This industry had not contracted in the previous year and was therefore less able to benefit from base effects.

The electronics sector saw above-average growth of 12%. It benefited from the general trend toward digitalization and connectivity, as well as from demand for consumer electronics and electronic control of household appliances and motor vehicles. Growth was slowed by capacity bottlenecks in the production of computer chips.

Global demand for energy and industrial raw materials rose sharply in 2021. Production in the energy and raw materials sector, however, only increased by 3.3% (2020: –3.5%), which resulted in significant price increases. The health and nutrition sector achieved growth of 6.4%, which was above average for recent years due to 15% growth in the pharmaceuticals industry resulting from vaccine production. Production in the food industry grew by 3.7%, which, by contrast, was just slightly better than the long-term average.

Also above average, agricultural production grew by 3.2%, as the overall negative impact of extreme weather events on yields was minor relative to recent years and global demand for agricultural goods increased dynamically due to economic recovery. Growth was driven primarily by Asia (+5.3%). By contrast, production growth was only weak in South America (+1.2%) and even declined slightly in North America and Europe.