Germany’s Top 10 Exports

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Germany shipped US$1.339 trillion worth of goods around the globe in 2016, up by 18.7% since 2009 when the Great Recession kicked in and up by 0.8% from 2015 to 2016.

Germany’s top 10 exports accounted for 70.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Germany’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $3.979 trillion as of November 2016. Therefore, exports account for about a third (33.7%) of total German economic output.

From a continental perspective, 65.6% of German exports by value are delivered to other European countries while 18.5% are sold to Asian importers. Germany ships another 10.6% worth to North America with 2% worth going to clients in Africa.

Given Germany’s population of 80.7 million people, its total $1.339 trillion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $16,600 for every resident in that country.

Germany’s unemployment rate was 3.8% as of January 2017 down from 4.3% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.

Germany’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in German global shipments during 2016. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Germany. At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Germany’s number 1 exported product is cars followed by automotive parts and accessories, therapeutic or prophylactic drugs and medicines, then powered aircraft including planes, helicopters, spacecraft and satellites.

  1. Vehicles: US$251.9 billion (18.8% of total exports)
  2. Machinery including computers: $224.6 billion (16.8%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: $137.7 billion (10.3%)
  4. Pharmaceuticals: $76.8 billion (5.7%)
  5. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $64.4 billion (4.8%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $61.9 billion (4.6%)
  7. Aircraft, spacecraft: $46.8 billion (3.5%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: $28.6 billion (2.1%)
  9. Mineral fuels including oil: $26 billion (1.9%)
  10. Organic chemicals: $25.3 billion (1.9%)

Vehicles represent the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 54.5% for the 7-year period starting in 2009.

In second place for improving export sales was the aircraft and spacecraft category which gained 44.3% in value.

Optical, technical and medical apparatus appreciated by 31%, followed by the plastics category up 26.3%.

The slowest-growing top categories are exported iron or steel articles (up 1.2%) and mineral fuels including oil (up 1.5%).


The following types of German product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports. In a nutshell, net exports is the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

Overall, Germany posted a trade surplus equal to $284.4 billion in 2016. This represents a 50.1% uptick from its $189.5-billion surplus during 2009.

  1. Vehicles: US$139.1 billion (Up by 60.4% since 2009)
  2. Machinery including computers: $88.8 billion (Up by 0.6%)
  3. Pharmaceuticals: $28.1 billion (Up by 58.5%)
  4. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $26.5 billion (Up by 25.4%)
  5. Aircraft, spacecraft: $25.6 billion (Up by 297.9%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $21.7 billion (Up by 21.4%)
  7. Other chemical goods: $9.6 billion (Up by 50.7%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: $7.5 billion (Down by -27.1%)
  9. Electrical machinery, equipment: $7.2 billion (Down by -12.8%)
  10. Tanning, dyes, paints, varnishes, ink: $5.7 billion (Up by 0.9%)

Germany has highly positive net exports in the international trade of cars and automotive parts. In turn, these cashflows indicate Germany’s strong competitive advantages under the vehicles product category.


Below are exports from Germany that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Germany’s goods trail German importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$52 billion (Down by -37.4% since 2009)
  2. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$9.1 billion (Up by 20.5%)
  3. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$8.4 billion (Up by 20.4%)
  4. Fruits, nuts: -$8.2 billion (Up by 24.2%)
  5. Ores, slag, ash: -$6.1 billion (Up by 1.9%)
  6. Vegetables: -$5.3 billion (Up by 11.2%)
  7. Footwear: -$5.3 billion (Up by 56.5%)
  8. Organic chemicals: -$4.9 billion (Up by 198.8%)
  9. Gems, precious metals: -$4.2 billion (Up by 59.5%)
  10. Oil seeds: -$4.1 billion (Up by 29.6%)

Germany has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for both crude oil and refined petroleum.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Germany’s competitive disadvantages in the international oil market, but also represent key opportunities for Germany to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations in alternative energy sources.


German Export Companies

Fifty-two German corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000 for 2015. Below is a sample of major German export companies:

  • Volkswagen Group (cars, trucks)
  • Allianz (diversified insurance)
  • Daimler (cars, trucks)
  • BMW Group (cars, trucks)
  • Siemens (conglomerate, engineering)
  • BASF (diversified chemicals)
  • Bayer (diversified chemicals)
  • Continental (automotive parts)
  • Linde (diversified chemicals)
  • Fresenius (medical equipment, supplies)
  • Henkel (household/personal care items)
  • Merck (pharmaceuticals)
  • Heidelberg Cement (construction materials)
  • Adidas (apparel/accessories)

Germany’s capital city is Berlin.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Germany’s Top 10 Imports, Germany’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, Germany’s Top Trading Partners, Top German Trade Balances and Highest Value German Export Products

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 22, 2017

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 22, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on March 22, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 22, 2017

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Germany. Accessed on March 22, 2017

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 22, 2017