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Toyota tops in 2014, but VW closes in

Look out: Volkswagen is gunning for global leadership, and it might come quicker than planned.

Volkswagen eyes global number one as Toyota forecasts sales wobble in 2015

22 Jan 2015

TOYOTA Motor Corporation retained its global vehicle sales dominance over arch rivals Volkswagen and General Motors last year, but it has warned that it is likely to slip backwards in 2015, potentially opening the door for VW to achieve its long-cherished dream of world number one.

The Japanese giant overnight reported a record 10.23 million sales in 2014, up from 9.98 million in 2013 and just ahead of Volkswagen Group’s 10.14 million and GM’s 9.92 million.

But it then went on to forecast a decline of about 1.0 per cent in sales this year, to 10.15 million units.

With VW powering ahead in China where it sold 3.76 million cars in 2014 and is planning further production capacity this year, it seems a near certainty that Europe’s biggest car-maker will haul in Toyota to achieve global leadership three years ahead of its 2018 target date.

While VW’s CEO Martin Winterkorn is on the record as saying VW will pour €85.6 billion ($A122b) into products and factories over the next five years, Toyota president Akio Toyoda appears to have deliberately curbed growth to concentrate on profits and sustainable development.

Toyota has suffered a number of stings in recent years, including the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan and the devastating Thai floods, both of which dented Toyota’s global charge.

The Japanese domestic market has usually been Toyota’s bedrock, but the company is forecasting a 9.0 per cent plunge in sales this year – from 2,320,000 to 2,100,00 units – as a result of Japan’s continuing economic struggle.

Japanese Toyota production is predicted to fall six per cent, to 3.97 million vehicles in 2015, but production elsewhere is expected to grow by one per cent, thanks mainly to stronger North American demand.

After decades of sales dominance, GM gave up the sales lead to Toyota in 2008, at the height of GM’s bankruptcy woes in the global financial crisis. Toyota gave it back in 2011 due to the Japanese tsunami, but steadied to reclaim the crown in 2012 and 2013.

As always, the Toyota sales figures include volume from its Daihatsu and Hino subsidiaries that contributed more than a million vehicles to the Toyota tally last year.

VW’s figures included its large group of subsidiaries, including Audi, Porsche, Skoda, Seat and Scania.

A decade ago, Mr Winterkorn set VW on a course to world sales leadership by 2018, expecting to sell 10 million vehicles to achieve this goal.

It has already ticked off the 10 million target with four years to spare, despite Europe’s lingering economic woes, and now could lock in the sales crown with three years to go.

In November, Mr Winterkorn said VW was planning to ramp up spending to record levels.

"We will continue to invest in the future to become the leading automotive group in both ecological and economic terms," he said in the statement.

"Development costs will remain high in the future as a result of high innovation pressure and increasing demands on the automotive industry."Several other major car-makers are yet to report their 2015 figures, but none of them are expected to challenge the big three.

Renault Nissan and Hyundai Group are likely to both exceed eight million sales in 2014, with Ford likely to beat its 2013 tally of 6.33 million.

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