Having dropped to third position after a number of disasters crippled its production in 2011, Toyota looks set to reclaim the title of the world’s largest automaker this year. This leaves General Motors and the VW Group to fight it out for second place until the last moment as they currently have a sales difference of less than 1 percent.
According to a report from Autonews, based on the automakers’ own data, Toyota is in first place through the first three quarters of the year with 7.4 million units, followed by GM with 6.95 million deliveries and the Volkswagen Group at 6.9 million sales.
Forecaster LMC Automotive says global car sales will exceed 80 million units for the first time ever. Despite the European market downturn, the new car markets in the U.S. and Japan have boomed, resulting in a record year.
The world’s three largest car companies have benefited greatly from the growth of the U.S. market, which after the 2009 disaster, has posted increased sales for the third consecutive year.
"Because the U.S. is so large, when we have a double-digit growth it's going to propel the rest of the world", commented IHS Automotive analyst Rebecca Lindland. "The gains can mask a myriad of sins elsewhere, because many of the other economies aren't exactly setting the world on fire."
Through November, Toyota had recorded a 29 percent increase in the U.S. while, through October, its Japanese sales have jumped by 41 percent compared to 2011.
“Whether the sales increase of this year will be sustainable is questionable”, Merrill Lynch analyst Takaki Nakanishi, told Autonews, adding, “but the introduction of mass volume models such as the Corolla should position Toyota in a very good place in terms of model line-up.”
GM has posted an increase of 2.5 percent in world sales during the first nine months of 2012 and is set to record its best year since 2007’s 9.37 million deliveries.
The third contender, VW, announced that through November, it had already exceeded its 2011 record of 8.36 million sales. In the U.S., VW sales rose by 31 percent until the end of November, more than any other carmaker.
“VW’s amazing”, said Christoph Stuermer, an analyst for IHS Automotive in Frankfurt. “They’re full of cash and full of technology. They can feature up their cars like almost no one else can.”
Stuermer forecast that next year VW will clip the gap with Toyota and may lead the European market’s recovery in 2014. Well, that may happen, but VW aims to become the world’s number one manufacturer by 2018 – and while Toyota (mostly) or GM may have a word or two to say about it, no one else is willing to bet against the Germans achieving their target.
By Andrew Tsaousis