Toyota officially recaptured the title ofworld’s largest automaker Monday, January28 as its final 2012 sales total toppedGeneral Motors, which held the lead in 2011.
NEW YORK (TIP): Earlier in January, General Motors(GM, Fortune 500) announced global sales of 9.29 millionvehicles for the year. In late December, Toyota Motor(TM) said it expected that global sales for 2012 hit 9.7million vehicles, and it confirmed that Monday, January28 when it reported global sales of 9.75 million.Volkswagen Group (VLKAY), which includes the VW,Audi and Porsche brands, came in at No. 3 with 9.09 millionvehicles, the first time the company has topped 9 million.
GM is the leading automaker in the world’s two largestmarkets, China and the United States. But Toyota is aclear leader in its home market of Japan, where non-Japanese automakers have had trouble competing due tolimited dealerships. And Toyota enjoyed a bounce-backyear in Japan, with sales rebounding 35% from 2011,when they were hurt by the earthquake and tsunami.Toyota’s sales totals also were helped by the fact thatit made more than 600,000 heavy-duty trucks and busesduring the year, a vehicle segment GM essentially shedin its home market.Toyota is No. 3 in terms of sales in the U.S., a keymarket where Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500) is No. 2.
Fordtook back that ranking back from Toyota in 2010 whenthe Japanese automaker was hit with recall problemsthat forced it to stop selling its most popular models fora period of time.GM topped global sales for 77 years through 2007,when it finished just barely ahead of Toyota. Bothautomakers’ sales suffered in 2008 as the bottom fell outof the U.S. economy, but high gas prices and a loomingbankruptcy at GM ultimately nudged Toyota into thelead, where it stayed for the next two years.
The federal bailout of GM in 2009, and the problems atToyota the next two years allowed the U.S. company torecapture the lead much quicker than most expected.Neither GM nor Toyota had a comment on therankings earlier this month when GM’s sales figuresessentially insured Toyota would move back into theglobal sales lead.Mike Wall, auto analyst for IHS Global Insight, saidit’s possible GM could come out on top in 2013. Aterritorial dispute between China and Japan couldadversely affect Toyota, while the recession in Europecould be a drag on Volkswagen’s sales growth.”In terms of GM returning to the lead, I certainlywouldn’t count them out, especially with the productthey’re set to introduce this year,” he said.
“I actuallythink all three will be huddled close together for thenext few years.”Wall says GM is a much healthier company today atNo. 2 than when it held the sales lead but posted hugefinancial losses in the previous decade.”The sales lead makes for bragging rights, but GM is astronger company than it was then,” he said.