Toyota Motor Corp. is set to reclaim the No. 1 spot from General Motors Corp. as the world’s top-selling automaker.
The Japanese company projected 2012 sales of 9.7 million cars and trucks worldwide in 2012, while GM sold 9.29 million. Volkswagen AG reported global sales of 9.07 million cars and trucks for 2012, a new record for the fast-growing German automaker.
Both GM and Toyota saw higher sales, but Toyota’s growth was far larger as it rolled out new versions of popular models like the Camry. GM executives promised sales growth this year, especially in the U.S. Both companies say publicly that they don’t care about who wins, but concede that the crown is an important morale booster for employees.
GM was the top-selling carmaker for more than seven decades before losing the title to Toyota in 2008. GM retook the sales crown in 2011 when Toyota’s factories were slowed by an earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The disaster left Toyota dealers with few cars to sell. The company has since recovered.
Toyota’s comeback from the earthquake, and flooding in Thailand, is only part of the story, says Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive, a Detroit-area industry forecasting firm. The company also has freshened up its stale midsize sedan, the Camry, the top-selling car in the United States.
GM’s global sales rose 2.9 percent last year, it announced Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Toyota sales rose 22 percent.
Schuster expects Toyota to keep the lead over GM this year as it launches a new Corolla.
“I think that’s going to be enough to keep them in their position,” he says.
GM is also contending with a stronger Volkswagen AG. GM narrowly edged out Volkswagen for second place in 2012. Volkswagen said Sunday it sold a record 9.07 million vehicles in 2012, including an all-time high 580,200 in the U.S.
In the U.S., the Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker sold more than 580,200 vehicles in 2012, surpassing the record set in 1970, when Volkswagen delivered 577,387 units in the U.S.
It increased its share of the U.S. light vehicle market last year by 0.6 percentage point, to 4 percent in 2012. The Volkswagen brand had its best year since 1973, selling 438,133 vehicles, including more than 117,000 Passat cars built in Chattanooga, Tenn., and 170,424 Jettas.
Audi brand sales totaled 139,310 vehicles, a 68 percent increase since 2009. Bentley and Bugatti also reported higher sales.
Volkswagen Group of America expects the market to grow moderately in 2013; it expects to outpace the industry.