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Toyota tops global sales but GM, VW not far behind

Fortune cookie: Volkswagen's Chinese-market Santana has contributed to the company's success.

VW Group closes the gap on Toyota and GM in quest for world domination

25 Jan 2011

UPDATED: 25/01/2011 TOYOTA has pipped General Motors by just over 28,000 units to retain its crown as world’s largest vehicle manufacturer, posting a final figure for 2010 of 8,418,000 sales, a 7.7 per cent comeback from its low ebb of 7.8 million in 2009.

The last time Toyota and GM’s sales figures matched so closely was in 2007, when both companies reported as-yet unbroken record sales of 9.37 million.

The General’s figure of 8,389,769 deliveries equates to a 12.2 per cent recovery after dropping 25 per cent – almost two million sales – while it endured the global financial crisis and resultant chapter 11 bankruptcy during 2008 and 2009.

In the same timeframe, Toyota dropped more than 1.5 million sales (16.5 per cent) between its high-water mark of 9.26 million in 2007 and the end of 2009, when sales slumped to 7,735,000.

Meanwhile, 2010 saw the Volkswagen Group sell more than seven million vehicles in a year for the first time, with volumes leaping a GM-trumping 13.5 per cent over 2009 to edge the company closer to realising its ambitions of becoming the world’s leading vehicle manufacturer.

Ford – which trailed in fourth place behind VW to the tune of over a million units in 2009 – has yet to release its figures for 2010.

While GM and Toyota were floundering through the darkest days of the GFC, Volkswagen continued to grow. It registered sales increases of 0.6 per cent in 2008 and 1.1 per cent in 2009 before powering through 2010 to a final score of 7,140,000 units – up 850,000 year-on-year and just short of its 7.2 million target.

128 center imageFrom top: Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze and VW Bora.

VW’s global sales have ridden on the coat-tails of soaring demand in China, where the company is well established thanks to its pioneering efforts, forming a joint-venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) to become the first western brand to enter that market in 1984.

China now consumes more than a quarter of the Wolfsburg-based firm’s total output, with sales rising 37.14 per cent from 1.4 million in 2009 to 1.92 million last year, overtaking Western Europe (which in VW’s reporting excludes Germany) for the first time.

As GoAuto has reported, GM can also attribute a significant portion of its success to growth in China, which now accounts for 28 per cent of volume and has overtaken the US to become its largest market. Chinese GM sales rose almost 29 per cent last year to 2.35 million, eclipsing US deliveries by 136,000.

China is where Toyota lags behind its “big three” competitors, with its comparatively modest sales of 846,000 (up 19.4 per cent) accounting for just 10 per cent of its global volume.

Although VW looks to be well on the way to achieving its target of 10 million vehicles a year by 2018, the further 40 per cent rise in volume required depends as much on international recovery from the GFC and greater penetration into the North American market as continued success in China.

As we’ve reported, the Chinese government is attempting to rein in the growth of vehicle sales amid fears of overloading the road network and of an overly enthusiastic building of vehicle manufacturing facilities threatening overproduction.

Luckily for Volkswagen, a return to growth in the US (up 20.9 per cent) and strong performance in emerging markets such as India (up 181 per cent) and Russia (up 39.5 per cent) bodes well for the company.

Sales declined on home soil, dropping 16.8 per cent to just over a million units, but the company noted that the entire German market contracted by 23.4 per cent, so Volkswagen’s overall market share actually increased.

Wolfsburg also managed to grow market share in the rest of Western Europe, registering an 11.6 per cent rise against a market that grew just 1.9 per cent. Central and Eastern Europe saw a similarly modest rise of 10.8 per cent.

Volkswagen’s ambitions of world domination echo – in an altogether more benign way – those of the man without whom the company would never exist, Adolf Hitler.

After the ruined factory was resurrected by the British following the end of World War 2, Hitler’s brainchild of a “strength through joy” people’s car went on to become the Volkswagen Beetle, more than 21 million of which were built during its 65-year lifespan.

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