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Toyota back on top

It’s back: After a year in the doldrums due to natural disasters and safety issues, Toyota has hit top gear to retake global sales leadership from GM.

Japanese sales jump pushes Toyota to 9.7 million vehicle sales and global leadership

Toyota logo29 Jan 2013

TOYOTA rebounded to number one in global vehicle sales last year as its strong performances in Japan and North America more than made up for a decline in Chinese volumes as a result of a consumer backlash over a territory dispute between China and Japan.

The Japanese giant’s collective Toyota, Lexus, Hino and Daihatsu brands achieved 9.74 million vehicles in 2012, up 22.6 per cent and edging out 2011 winner GM (9.29 million) and fast-growing VW Group (9.07 million).

Recovering from 2011’s natural disasters that crippled production and forced it to cede the crown to GM for a year, Toyota even exceeded its own 2012 forecast of 8.48 million vehicles, propelled by a 35 per cent sales jump in its Japanese home market, where government incentives helped it unload 2.4 million units.

GM is yet to formally confirm its 2012 tally, but analysts estimate its sales will come up short of Toyota, despite improving its output from 2011’s 9.03 million to about 9.29 million last year.

Volkswagen Group appears to have grabbed third spot with a company record 9.07 sales – the first time the German company has broken the nine million mark.

Ford and the Nissan-Renault Alliance have yet to report, but they are unlikely to challenge the top three this time.

Hyundai and subsidiary Kia have reported respective sales of 4.66 million and 2.71 million in 2012, giving the South Korean group a total 7.37 million sales for the year – well up on its 6.53 million of the previous 12 months.

Toyota seized global sales leadership from GM in 2008, ending the ailing American company’s 77-year grip on the crown at the height on the global financial crisis.

Natural disasters and a string of embarrassing safety recalls in 2011 loosened Toyota’s hold on the prize, allowing a revitalised GM to crunch its rival with the aid of soaring sales in China and recovering sales in North America.

Despite its success elsewhere, Toyota is experiencing fresh problems in China, where a consumer backlash over disputed islands between Japan and China has resulted in the company’s first sales decline in the world’s biggest market since 2002.

While Toyota shifted 745,000 Toyota-branded vehicles in China last year, GM sold a record 2.8 million, up 11.3 per cent on the previous year.

However, Toyota is aiming to continue its global upward sales track, aiming for 9.91 million vehicles in 2013.

Volkswagen continued its march towards the top of the global sales leader board under its Strategy 2018 plan, aided by strong sales in Asia – particularly China – and North America.

Volkswagen chairman Martin Winterkorn said Volkswagen did extremely well in difficult conditions – namely Europe – to notch record group sales.

“Tough challenges lie ahead,” he cautioned. “The Volkswagen Group has everything it takes to face these challenges and to play a leading role on world markets.”

North American VW Group sales grew 26 per cent to 841,500 units.

In China, VW finished the year line-ball with GM, selling 2.81 million units, up 24.5 per cent.

VW has a target of 10 million sales a year by 2018 under Strategy 2018.

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