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VW Bumps Toyota From Top Spot As World’s Biggest Automaker

Toyota has been dethroned as the world's number one automaker by Volkswagen. Slowing sales in the U.S. and China combined to move Toyota into second place.
Posted: January 30, 2017 - 11:09AM
Author: Marc Stern

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Although it has taken a decade, Volkswagen has clearly dethroned Toyota as the world’s largest carmaker. Ten years ago, then-CEO Martin Winterkorn determined that Volkswagen would take the top spot from Toyota, as Toyota had taken it from General Motors.

For some years recently, there has been some back-and-forth as Toyota and VW dueled for the top sales spot. However, due to a slower-than-expected sales rate in China and waning Corolla sales in the United States, Toyota fell behind Volkswagen’s record 10.38-million-vehicle sales for 2016.

Interestingly, Toyota’s global sales rose 0.2 percent, hitting 10.2 million vehicles. Toyota’s sales included sales of all of its brands, Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino. The automaker remains to the top manufacturer in Japan. Volkswagen’s brands include Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen Commercial Vans, Skoda, Seat, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, MAN, Scania, Neoplan and Ducati motorcycles.

By another measure, though, Toyota remains ahead of VW, profit. Bloomberg noted Monday that Toyota’s profit, for the first six months of the year – through September – was more than double VW’s. Figures for the last half of 2016, ending Dec. 31, were not available.

In its comparison of sales, Bloomberg noted that Toyota fell behind VW due to changes in the automakers’ largest markets, the U.S. and China. Toyota felt the effects of a general sales slowdown in the U.S. VW, on the other hand, saw its demand in China continue to grow. The German automaker also benefited from a 2015 Chinese tax cut that spurred demand.

Looking to the future, Toyota faces some challenges. They include:

Potential trade tensions with the U.S. under President Donald Trump. Trump has been pressuring for

  • More U.S. production.
  • Slowing demand in China.

Sources: Automotive News, Bloomberg

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