Toyota wins back global auto sales crown from GM
TOKYO (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp. outsold General Motors Co. and Volkswagen Group last year, regaining the global sales lead after recovering from natural disasters and record recalls that tarnished its reputation for quality.
Worldwide sales at Toyota, including deliveries from its subsidiaries Hino Motors Ltd. and Daihatsu Motor Co., rose 23 percent to a record 9.75 million units in 2012, according to a statement from the carmaker. That compares with the 9.29 million units sold by GM and 9.07 million at Volkswagen.
In Europe, sales of Toyota and Lexus cars rose 2 percent to 837,969 units last year, led by a boost in demand for hybrid vehicles, the company said Jan. 10, while in the United States, Toyota increased its share of the market to 14.4 percent from 12.9 percent, narrowing the gap with GM, which accounted for 17.9 percent of sales, according to the industry researcher Autodata Corp. Sales of Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles in the market rose 27 percent to 2.08 million units.
In Japan, Toyota increased sales by 35 percent to 2.41 million units in 2012, as the company rolled out the Aqua, a smaller version of the world's best-selling hybrid car and sold as the Prius c outside of Japan. Demand was also boosted by government subsidies and tax breaks for fuel-efficient cars. Overseas sales in total climbed 19 percent to 7.33 million units, according to the company.
In China, Toyota recorded its first annual sales decline last year since at least 2002 and had to push back plans to make the country its third million-unit market, after a territorial dispute over a group of islands in the East China Sea escalated and triggered a consumer backlash.
The automaker is counting on U.S. demand to help achieve its projection for 9.91 million in annual sales this year, helped by a weakening yen that makes it more competitive against South Korea's Hyundai Motor. A recovery in China may also help counter an estimated decline in Japanese demand after government incentives expired in September.
"Toyota has fully recovered from the earthquake and natural disasters a year earlier," said Satoshi Yuzaki, Tokyo-based general manager at Takagi Securities Co. "Japanese carmakers, including Toyota, will continue to benefit from an extremely strong U.S. market."
In 2008, Toyota ended GM's 77-year reign as the world's largest automaker, holding on to the top annual sales spot until 2011, when it surrendered the title after production was disrupted by natural disasters in Japan and Thailand.
When Akio Toyoda became president of the carmaker in June 2009, the company was reeling from its biggest annual loss and downgrades from Moody's and Standard & Poor's Ratings Services highest credit ratings. The global recession triggered a 35 percent contraction in U.S. auto demand, Toyota's largest overseas market. Deliveries rebounded in 2012 as the recession receded and the Japanese automaker added new products and was spared from disruptions caused by natural disasters.
Toyoda, the grandson of the company's founder, has sought to widen the Japanese automaker's appeal beyond its best-selling Camry sedan and Prius hybrid by making its cars more fun to drive. The automaker introduced the rear-wheel-drive 86 coupe -- featuring a front design that evokes a "predator about to pounce" -- in November 2011 and pegged the price to a college graduate's starting salary to attract young buyers, according to the company.
This year, the automaker will introduce a revamped Corolla, its second-most popular car in the United States in 2012, to compete with VW's Golf and Honda Motor Co.'s Civic compact.
Toyota will also work with BMW to produce a midsize sports car and set up partnerships to create fuel-cell systems, lightweight materials and lithium-air batteries, the companies said Jan. 24.
Toyoda, who's also chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, said this month that that domestic carmakers are "beginning to see the light" with the yen. About 15 months ago, the 56-year-old executive was so pessimistic that he warned Japanese carmakers may collapse under the weight of a local currency that had surged to a record postwar level.
The Bank of Japan last week announced a shift to Federal Reserve-style open-ended easing, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office last month, has called for "bold monetary policy" to beat deflation and drive the yen lower. The yen has fallen more than 5 percent in the past month, the biggest decline among 10 developed-nation currencies tracked by Bloomberg Correlation-Weighted Indexes.
On Monday, rival Japanese carmakers Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. reported global sales increases of 5.8 percent to 4.94 million units and 19 percent to 3.82 million respectively.Contact Automotive News