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GM wins global sales race

Cruze to the top: General Motors has its increasingly global Chevrolet brand to thank for much of its sales growth, with the popular Cruze being that brand’s best-selling product.

Once-dominant Toyota knocked into fourth position behind GM, VW and Renault-Nissan

General Motors logo23 Jan 2012

GENERAL Motors sold 9.03 million vehicles last year, claiming back the title of world’s largest automaker from natural disaster-addled Toyota.

Toyota has not yet released official figures, but projected a final result of 7.9 million units on December 22 – a fall of six per cent.

If Toyota’s projection proves accurate, another record result from Volkswagen – of 8.16 million vehicles – will knock the Japanese giant into fourth position after the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which says it shifted 8.03 million.

Sales for VW and the Alliance grew 14.3 per cent and 10.3 per cent respectively last year, enabling them to further close the gap on their Detroit rival, which grew 7.6 per cent.

Meanwhile, Hyundai-Kia looks likely to have edged Ford – which is yet to publish its final result – out of the top five, with sales for the ambitious South Korean group having grown more than 25 per cent to 6.53 million units.

GM’s fastest-growing region was North America, up 11.4 per cent with 2.9 million vehicles sold, followed by its ‘international operations’ region (comprising Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East) on 7.6 per cent and 3.3 million units.



 center imageLeft: Volkswagen Golf, Toyota Corolla, Renault Megane and Nissan Qashqai/Dualis.

Growth for the General can be largely attributed to the success of its increasingly global Chevrolet brand, which accounted for more than half its volume with a record 4.76 million sales, up 11.7 per cent.

Even though Chevrolet saw some stunning growth figures in developing markets such as Peru (81 per cent), Vietnam (79 per cent), Thailand (57 per cent), South Africa (50 per cent) and Israel (46 per cent) it also did well on home soil, clocking up a 13 per cent sales increase in the US.

GM also achieved record sales of 2.55 million units in the Chinese market, which grew at a more modest rate of 8.3 per cent than in recent years.

The return of GM to the top slot, coupled with its impressive growth figures, indicate a marked turnaround since it emerged from bankruptcy following the global financial crisis.

GM CEO Dan Akerson has indicated the company would rather sell fewer cars at a profit than achieve volume at all costs.

Despite this, and renewed economic uncertainty, GM this year is likely to break its 2007 record of 9.37 million units as this would only require a modest sales increase of 3.8 per cent.

Both GM and VW were able to increase their share of the global market last year, having grown faster than the global average of 5.1 per cent.

By contrast, the Australian market shrank 2.6 per cent last year – with GM Holden sales diving 5.1 per cent and VW rising 17.7 per cent.

Volkswagen sales also grew more quickly than GM in China, where it sold 2.25 million vehicles to register a 17.2 per cent increase, while Indian sales more than doubled to 111,600 units.

But VW made real progress in GM territory, increasing US sales by 23.3 per cent, although it remained a relative minnow with 444,300 units leaving showrooms there.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Central and Eastern Europe again demonstrated an appetite for VW Group products, up 29.4 per cent to 548,000 units, while Russians purchased 229,000 – a hefty 74.4 per cent increase.

In its home market, VW managed to increase sales by 11.4 per cent to 1.15 million units, while the rest of Western Europe – a market that shrank by 4.4 per cent – took delivery of 1.98 million VW Group vehicles, a 7.0 per cent increase.

The Wolfsburg-based giant continues on its quest for the number one spot, with a target of 10 million annual sales by 2018. Threats to this include a resurgent Toyota and the continued success of GM.

Whether this is the first time the Renault-Nissan Alliance has made the top three remains questionable as last year it issued figures showing it sold more vehicles (7.28 million) than VW (7.14 million) in 2010.

However an article in Automotive News reported this total to include 570,014 sales by Russian manufacturer AvtoVAZ, which the journal said the Alliance was not qualified to count towards its total as it did not have board or management control of AvtoVAZ.

At the time of writing, Ford, which has stated a goal of eight million units by 2015 compared with the 5.3 million it sold last year, had not published final figures.

However, the Blue Oval has so far reported its US sales were up 17 per cent, with Europe up 2.4 per cent, while the number of vehicles sold in developing markets India and Russia increased by 15 and 30 per cent respectively.

Hyundai-Kia has set a global sales target of seven million for this year – marking an end to its run of double-digit annual growth.

Toyota, now in the final stages of recovery from the devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami of March 11 last year, is projecting a 20 per cent increase in sales to 8.48 million units in 2012.

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