Toyota’s Global Sales Surpass GM and VW in First Half of Year

Toyota Motor Corporation has reclaimed the title of worldwide sales leader it had lost to General Motors Company in the wake of the March 11, 2011 Japan earthquake and flooding that brought production to a standstill in Thailand.

During the first six months of the year, Toyota’s global sales including Hino and Daihatsu models rose to 4.97 million units. GM sold 4.67 million units, and Volkswagen AG sold 4.45 million units during the same period.

Toyota made significant sales gains in its two biggest markets, the U.S. and Japan, while GM and Volkswagen saw declining sales in European markets.

In an email, IHS Automotive analyst Rebecca Lindland said the numbers show “it’s a competitive world out there” and called the competition between Toyota, Volkswagen and GM a “tight race.”

According to GM, the company saw a 2.9 percent increase in global sales during the first half compared with the same period a year earlier.

General Motors lost the title of world’s largest automaker to Toyota in 2008 as the U.S. market collapse forced the company into bankruptcy reorganization the following year, but regained the title in 2011.

Lindland said she has no doubt that GM would love to dethrone Toyota, “but they would rather be profitable so they are not going to get into a market-share race at the expense of their balance sheets.”

AutoPacific Inc. analyst Dave Sullivan says the comparison between first half sales in 2011 and 2012 isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples proposition.  “It’s difficult to compare this year to last year because last year was such a special circumstance,” he says.

In an email, GM spokesman Jim Cain said 70 percent of the automaker’s models will be new or redesigned this year and in 2013. “We are in the early days of the most aggressive roll out of new products in our history, which will help us press our advantage in the U.S. and China and grow profitably around the world,” said Cain.

Volkswagen AG has been very public about its goal of claiming the title of world’s largest automaker by 2014, and recently announced an aggressive strategy to increase sales in the U.S. market.

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