TOKYO -- Volkswagen Group pulled ahead of Toyota Motor Corp.'s global deliveries during the first quarter, as a series of production stoppages at home threaten the Japanese automaker's four-year reign atop auto industry sales charts.
Toyota’s worldwide sales fell 2.3 percent to 2.46 million vehicles in the January-to-March period, spokeswoman Kayo Doi said today. Volkswagen said earlier this month its deliveries rose 0.8 percent to 2.5 million, while General Motors Co.’s sales dropped 2.5 percent to 2.36 million.
Already handicapped by a one-week stoppage at domestic assembly plants in February, Toyota anticipates losing output of another 80,000 vehicles from shutdowns caused by Japan’s most devastating earthquakes since March 2011. The lost production will test Toyota’s ability to extend to five years its streak as the world’s top-selling automaker, with growth in China and Europe buoying Volkswagen amid the worst crisis in its history.
"This has impacted multiple parts, models and plants," Hiroji Onishi, a Toyota senior managing officer, told reporters Sunday in Beijing, ahead of China’s biggest auto show. "All effort is being made now to grasp the current situation and build the recovery plan."
China, Europe boost
Volkswagen boosted deliveries by 6.4 percent in China and 3.5 percent in Western Europe during the first three months, pacing its second quarterly win over Toyota in the past year. Still, the 16.2 billion euros ($18.2 billion) the company has set aside to cover emissions-cheating scandal costs has rendered passing Toyota a hollow victory.
More attention has turned to automakers’ compliance with fuel economy and emissions standards rather than sales achievements, in the wake of Volkswagen’s admission in September that it equipped diesel engines with software that circumvented U.S. law.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said last week it manipulated testing figures and overstated fuel economy of Japan minicars. Daimler investigated the emissions certification process of its cars following a request by the U.S. Department of Justice, while fraud investigators raided French manufacturer PSA Group.
Toyota on Monday began to restart assembly lines halted after earthquakes on Kyushu island in southern Japan, with more output resuming in phases through Thursday, according to an April 20 statement.
Stoppages in February linked to an explosion and fire at a plant run by affiliate Aichi Steel Corp. disrupted engine, transmission and chassis component supply. Toyota’s production that month plunged 17 percent to 298,839 vehicles.