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Toyota still world number one – just

Another one: A Lexus goes down the production line in Japan, helping Toyota to retain its global sales leadership.

Aggressive Volkswagen closes the gap on Toyota in global sales so far this year

31 Jul 2014

JAPAN’S biggest car-maker, Toyota, kept its nose in front of fast-gaining European rival Volkswagen Group in the global vehicle sales race in the first half of 2014.

Reigning world sales champ Toyota and its subsidiaries Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino sold almost 5.1 million vehicles in the six months, just ahead of contender for the crown, VW Group, with 4.97 million sales in the same period.

While Toyota sales grew 3.8 per cent to set a new company record, VW closed the gap with a 5.9 per cent gain, mainly on the back of massive sales growth in China when 1.81 million VW Group vehicles found buyers – a rise of 17.5 per cent.

Toyota sold just under 500,000 units (up 11.8 per cent) in China, where Japanese manufacturers have struggled to overcome negative perceptions from Chinese consumers upset at regional tensions between the Asian neighbours.

In North America it was a different story, with Toyota the dominant force with 1.27 million sales in its biggest market, while VW Group went backwards by 3.0 per cent, to 424,900 vehicles.

Many pundits believe it is just a matter of time before VW realises its publicly stated goal of world sales leadership, perhaps even in this calendar year.

While Toyota is reportedly focussing on improving quality and reliability in the wake of the safety recall problems of the past decade, with president Akio Toyoda ordering a halt to production expansion in the meantime, VW has the hammer down in all markets.

VW’s luxury brand Audi is booming around the world, gaining 11.4 per cent to 869,400 units, with almost a third of those sales in China where the Ingolstadt marque is a run-away leader in the luxury car segment.

Toyota’s first-half sales were boosted by a jump in Japanese domestic sales ahead of a car tax hike in April – a fact that might weigh on its showroom performance in the second half of 2014.

Former global sales number one General Motors reported 4.92 sales in the six months, putting it just behind VW in a three-way race.

Toyota overtook GM two years ago, but both companies have endured dented pride with various scandals over safety recalls, leaving the door open for VW to make gains.

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