Volkswagen is celebrating a milestone, after narrowly edging out Toyota to become the world’s biggest automaker in the first half of 2015. VW sold 5.04 million vehicles through June, to Toyota’s 5.02 million vehicles. Both automakers handily beat out General Motors, which took third in the global sales lineup by selling 4.86 million vehicles.
For VW, it’s a feat long in the making. The automaker set the goal to become the world’s biggest automaker way back in 2007. VW finally came out on top thanks to European demand, even though it suffered a sales drop in China, its biggest market.
“Toyota versus Volkswagen is going to be a very close race,” Koji Endo, an auto analyst at Advanced Research Japan, told Automotive News.“These companies want to make the profitability side much more important than volume.”
“The extent of the recent softness exhibited by many markets was not anticipated at the beginning of the year by either the companies themselves or by the market,” Clive Wiggins, a Tokyo-based analyst at BNP Paribas, wrote in a report Monday. Japanese carmakers may cut sales forecasts and need cost reductions and currency gains to avoid having to reduce their outlook for earnings, he said.
China’s passenger-vehicle sales fell for the first time in more than two years in June as economic growth slowed and a stock-market rout dented consumer sentiment. Global automakers will manufacture fewer vehicles in China this year than they are able to because of slowing demand, which is a reversal after years of rushing to build new factories, Sanford C. Bernstein analysts said in a report this month.
Volkswagen’s sales chief Christian Klingler has said the company was “not immune” from market trends in China and that conditions in South America and Russia market “remain tense.”
In Europe, the longest stretch of economic growth for the 19 countries using the euro has put auto sales on more solid footing in countries where Volkswagen dominates.