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Toyota usurps Volkswagen as top seller

Recharge: New vehicles from VW like the ID.3 could spark a resurgence from the brand.

Volkswagen gives up world’s most popular brand after five years at the top

29 Jan 2021

VOLKSWAGEN has been booted out of the top-seller’s position after five years as the world’s most popular brand as the effects of the pandemic and soaring costs slashed sales in 2020 by 15 per cent – enough to elevate Toyota to the top for the first time since 2015.


The global slump in vehicle demand caused by the pandemic hit the Volkswagen Group harder than most of its rivals, with sales down 15 per cent to 9.31 million deliveries across all Group assets (Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Skoda, Seat, Scania and MAN).


The extent of the automaker’s sales losses was largely determined by their level of exposure to the regions most disrupted by the virus.


The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) reported that Volkswagen has a strong footprint in the European Union where passenger car sales plunged by 24 per cent to less than 10 million in 2020.


ACEA said that Toyota has a bigger presence in the US, where total light vehicle sales fell 14.4 per cent in 2020. 


“Although the US has the most COVID-19 deaths and cases, there have not been the same lockdowns as in Europe,” it said in a statement. 


The lockdowns directly affected sales by preventing people to visit car showrooms.


As a result, Toyota’s 2020 group sales – including Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino – fell 11 per cent to 9.53 million units.


Automotive News reported that Volkswagen began to change its emphasis on sales to raising profitability in 2018.


It said Volkswagen’s return on sales was behind that of Toyota and when the pandemic hit in March 2020, it exposed the Group’s relatively high production costs.


Now global analyst IHS Markit said with Toyota back on top, it could be indicative of a long-term trend.


It forecasts that Volkswagen will outsell Toyota this calendar year, but Toyota will carry the crown each year through to at least 2025.


IHS Markit also said Volkswagen's plan to build more electrified vehicles – lead by the ID. series of full EVs – should lead to a sales spike this year, however ongoing lockdowns in Europe (primary market) will hit showrooms and may affect production.


Toyota, meanwhile, is expected to have sales growth in Japan, the US and China.

IHS Markit predicts that aside from negative factors including lockdowns and the global shortage of electronic chips through 2021, it sees global vehicle sales in 2021 to grow to 84.4 million, up from 76.8 million in 2020.


It will rise further to its estimate of 94.5 million in 2025.

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