Toyota reclaims auto crown

27 July 2012

TOKYO: Toyota has reclaimed its position as the world's biggest-selling automaker, having overtaken previous frontrunner General Motors during the opening six months of this year.

Figures released by Toyota showed volume sales rose by 34% in the first half of 2012 to 4.97m vehicles, not least as a result of hardening demand in the US and Japan.

General Motors also saw purchase rates climb by 2.9% to 4.67m units in this period, while Volkswagen enjoyed an expansion of 8.9% on the same metric, to a total of 4.45m.

Jeff Schuster, senior vice president, forecasting, at LMC Automotive, told Bloomberg: "Toyota has bounced back stronger than expected … We are now at the critical mid-year point in the race, and given Toyota's lead, it will be very difficult for GM to catch Toyota."

Toyota originally claimed the status of the globe's largest car manufacturer in 2008, at a time when the US market was weak and General Motors faced mounting financial problems.

However, the natural disasters which struck Asia in 2011 disrupted Toyota's supply network and, alongside high-profile recalls, meant Toyota lost this crown to its resurgent American rival in 2011.

Dave Sullivan, an analyst at AutoPacific, warned such events posed challenges for industry-watchers. "It's difficult to compare this year to last year because last year was such a special circumstance."

According to Autodata, the research group, General Motor's market share in the US fell from 19.9% to 18.1% year on year in the first half, whereas Toyota logged a gain from 12.8% to 14.4%.

Despite this trend, Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at IHS Automotive, suggested the pent-up demand for Toyota's cars could soon slow, both in America and overseas.

"Keep in mind Toyota's sales may be stronger in the first half ... because they are still recovering from the impact of the tsunami last year and re-stocking dealerships, pulling in consumers who may have waited," she said. "But that positive impact will trail off as the year progresses."

In a bid to enhance its standing domestically, GM also plans to redesign some 70% of vehicle nameplates over the course of 2012 and 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 US and China and grow profitably around the world," Jim Cain, a spokesman for General Motors, added.

Data sourced from Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff