GM, VW global sales for 2012 trail Toyota's forecast for year
DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- General Motors, reporting its best full-year global sales results since 2007, failed to outsell Toyota's forecasted 9.7 million deliveries for 2012 while narrowly beating Volkswagen Group.
GM sales in 2012 rose 2.9 percent to more than 9.2 million vehicles last year, GM said. VW reported 9.07 million sales. That means Toyota probably has regained its spot as the world's top-selling automaker after losing it in 2011 following disasters in Asia that hurt its ability to make cars and trucks.
"Toyota has certainly had a rebound year coming off the crisis in 2011," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive in Troy, Michigan. "They came back stronger than the industry expected."
Unlike when Toyota last overtook GM in 2008, the U.S. automaker is not on a slide toward bankruptcy and is instead on an upswing, having posted 11 straight quarterly profits since its 2009 bankruptcy reorganization.
GM's top sales year was 2007, when it delivered 9.37 million. "As I said last year at this time, I didn't necessarily want to be No. 1 in sales as much as I did No. 1 in profit," GM CEO Dan Akerson told reporters on Monday at the Detroit auto show. "That's what we focus on."
The close finish underscores the tight battle that lies ahead as all three companies have designs on further growth. While no automaker has ever sold 10 million vehicles in a year, both VW and Toyota have forecast hitting that goal in coming years, and Akerson said last week that his company's introduction of new products will leave competitors "worried about us as much as I'm worried about specific competitors."
GM had held the title of top-selling automaker globally for 77 years before losing it to Toyota in 2008, a blow to the U.S. automaker en route to its 2009 bankruptcy.
Toyota's reign hit a hiccup in 2011 when GM, aided by new small cars, such as the Chevrolet Cruze, regained the sales crown from the Japanese company hurt by natural disasters.
"It's a horse-race among all three" this year, Tom Libby, lead North American analyst for auto researcher R.L. Polk & Co., said. "I see all three companies being competitive going forward."
GM's new products, including a redesigned Silverado pickup, should help the automaker see "modest" share growth in the United States this year after falling to an 88-year low in 2012, Akerson said last week.
The company's U.S. market share in 2012 dropped to 17.9 percent, the lowest since Alfred P. Sloan's first full-year running the automaker in 1924, as Toyota rebounded.