It will take weeks to determine which automaker finished No. 1 in vehicle sales last year, but we already know which company was the 2011 market capitalization champion: Toyota Motor Corp. with Volkswagen AG rising to No. 2 from fourth in 2010.
VW's market capitalization increased to $70.1 billion last year from $66.0 billion in 2010, figures from Morgan Stanley investment bank show. The 6 percent increase was enough to push Europe's largest automaker past Daimler AG and Honda Motor Co. and to halve the lead that Toyota had over VW in 2010. (See chart, bottom)
VW's climb was fueled by substantial global growth by all its brands, while Toyota, Daimler and Honda all took hard hits due to economic factors or natural disasters.
Toyota's market capitalization decreased to $99.8 billion from $127.3 billion at the end of 2010 largely because of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that disrupted its global production for months. While Toyota's value to investors was second to none again in 2011, its place at the top of the global vehicle-sales chart is at serious risk. VW and General Motors Corp. are poised to topple Toyota once the final results come in.
Like Toyota, Honda's market cap also was hurt by the Japan disasters. Honda's market cap slipped to $52.6 billion from $70.7 billion in 2010. Despite the troubles, Honda held on to its No. 3 ranking from 2010.
Daimler, meanwhile, slid from No. 2 in 2010 to No. 5 in 2011 because of slow sales of heavy trucks. Daimler's decline was so sharp that BMW AG pulled ahead of its rival $42.7 billion to $42.3 billion.