By on January 28, 2013


As usual at this time of the month, Toyota released full month sales and production figures for the preceding month, and as usual in January, the numbers are for the full calendar year. Readers of TTAC will not be surprised by the data, a look forward into 2013 however can get quite exciting. Or unnerving. The podium of the World’s Largest Automakers promises to be in disarray in 2013.

World’s Largest Automakers
Full Year 2012 Data
12M ’12 12M ’11 YoY
Toyota 9,909,440 7,858,091 26.1%
GM 9,288,277 9,023,502 2.9%
Volkswagen 9,070,000 8,160,000 11.2%
Source: Company data.
Toyota: Production. GM: Sales. VW: Deliveries.

With Volkswagen having announced its data two weeks ago, the only number that is missing is GM’s global production number. We are using published sales until we have the number. We expect it with the annual results. It will not change the ranking. Toyota ended the year 2012 with a worldwide production of 9,909,440 units, up 26.1 percent, and with sales of 9,748,000 units, up 22.8 percent. No surprise at all, it is pretty much what Toyotas figured a month ago.

In case you’re dwelling under a rock: The number we are tracking at TTAC is production, not sales. Not because we like production better. OICA, the world umbrella organization of automakers, uses production for its list of largest automakers, and so do we. “Sales” is a very elastic and tortured term anyway. It can mean real registrations, make-to-order bookings, sales to dealers, sales to wholesale, CKD sales, sales to sales organizations. Ever so precise Volkswagen uses “Auslieferungen”, or deliveries. At VW, a car is produced when it passes Zählpunkt 8 (count point eight), but it is delivered when it is shipped. More than you ever wanted to know.

Instead of dwelling on arcana, let’s look forward. Unlike 2012, which (at least in our view) was decided when it barely had begun, 2013 promises to be interesting right to the end. It also is the first year where Volkswagen has a halfway realistic chance of fulfilling its dream of world domination. Let’s have a look.

Toyota is on record that it plans to catch its breath in 2013, after its incredible comeback from the shock of 2011, which was a disaster year of biblical proportions. After earthquakes, tsunamis and floods, it’s only a rain of frogs that is missing. Wait, GM has a patent on those.  Toyota wants to add maybe two percent to its sales and plans for flat production numbers. Let’s call it 10 million.

If Volkswagen maintains its 2012 growth rate of 11.2 percent, then it could pass the 10 million mark by a hair, or 80,000 units. Unlikely, but possible.

Likewise, if GM maintains its 2.9 percent growth rate, it would reach 9.6 million and land in place three.

All of these are big ifs. We will know a little more in a few months.

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28 Comments on “Volkswagen Can Be World’s Largest Automaker In 2013 – As Unlikely As It May Be. GM In Danger Of Dropping To Third...”


  • avatar

    Hey Bertel.

    Yep, it’ll be interesting. I’m figuring that both GM and VW will be gaining on the Brazilian market in 2013 and thusly helping their worldwide numbers. Fiat could be knocked to 2 or 3 here because of that (though if that threatens I guess they have fat to make price wars, could be a good year for the consumer). Toyota won’t be getting any help from Brazil. Its low cost Etios (not so much here) can only gain so much due to its frumpy exterior, hideous interior and high price (though it is a pleasent enough drive). Its archnemesis (Hyundai HB20 went the opposite oute, good design terrible ride) and sells much better.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    “danger?” It’s not like being “#1″ did GM any good. “Being #1″ even caused Toyota to take their eyes off of the ball. If VW wants “#1″ I say let them have it.

    • 0 avatar
      henkdevries

      +1
      Still I believe Germans are more critical and thus seeing right from wrong even being the top dog. That said, VW world domination could be a long one. Although Germans were never good at world domination.

      And who knows what is coming out of China in 10 years time. Once settled the Chinese could throw out a lot of foreign brands.

    • 0 avatar
      ZekeToronto

      Chasing sales or production rankings is only harmful (from the corporate perspective) if it comes at the expense of profit. VW doesn’t seem to be falling into that trap.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        but they are falling into the “get sales #s at the expense of product quality” trap like Toyota did. Witness the grousing about the Jetta’s miserable interior and 2-valve wheezer of a base engine.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        Based on the sales of the base Jetta, the grousing is limited to the enthusiast community, whether on TTAC or on vwvortex. VW is simply offering a more basic option for customers that want it.

    • 0 avatar
      200k-min

      I agree, what’s the point of being a global #1? These companies should be worried about making the best possible products. Of all 3 only GM has actually “improved” their products in recent years. Toyotas are not what they used to be and VW is a decontented POS (time will tell if they are mechanically ok).

      For me I’ll stick with automakers that aren’t in an all out race to out produce the next guy.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        VW being “decontented” might be true in the US (by reading the specs on US sites this seems true for many european car makers, better specs at the lower end and fewer options at the top) and in the developing world, the rest of us can still get a VW with a wizz bang compressor/turbo/direct fuel injected engine, lane and drowsiness and speed limit sensors, radar cruise control, surround view cameras and what not of limited practical use. At horrible prices, but it’s available non the less.

  • avatar
    mike978

    I expect VW will end the year in second place. Whilst they will probably grow 11+% in the US, growth like that in Europe and China (their biggest markets) will not be as great. However 2014 could easily be the year they become #1 for what it is worth. A full 4 years ahead of schedule!

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      I’m not sure that VW will grow 11%+ in North America again. They grew rapidly in North America when they introduced a new Jetta and Passat designed for North American tastes (i.e., bigger and cheaper). Unless they have some more compelling new products in the pipeline I don’t expect their rapid growth in North America to continue.

      The real story here, as pointed out by others before, is that we now have a three way race between the top automakers – no one company is dominant the way GM was 50 years ago. With the #3 automaker within 10% of #1, I expect any one of these companies could come out on top next year – and I doubt that they will stay on top for long, certainly not for 77 years the way GM did from 1931 – 2007.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Had you predicted this in 1980, you’d have been committed.In other news, Hell reportedly froze over today, and Lucifer is seeking new housing.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    I wonder if Volkswagen is growing too fast. In my part of the world (Malaysia, Singapore) VW owners are complaining about waiting times for servicing and repairs, and what seems to be a lack of skilled staff. This is bad news since these cool new VW models seem to have “issues” that need correcting more often than Japanese cars.

    • 0 avatar
      MeaCulpa

      Ah, memories of the mid and late 90’s flash to my mind. The passat B5 where being introduced an the motoring press in Europe where duly impressed with the comfortable, well handling and good looking passat, the previous generations where boring with drowsy interiors. But the customers, WOW, where they every impressed! They flocked to the dealerships, the passat became the must-have-car for company car driver with children, it had it all… Unfortunately it also had some minor issues, and not a good damn mechanic able to fix the problems, VW was hammered by their own success. So they fixed the problem right? Well the have instituted programs all over the place with personal mechanics, service centers and what not, however a VAG mechanic that knows what he’s doing is still rarer then a hens teeth.
      What am I saying? basically that we’re (Scandinavia that is) 15-20 years ahead of you in the we won’t fix it but bill you dealer department. So I’ll give you a heads up when they manage to pull their head out of their teutonic arses so you know that you can recommend a VW… to the next generation.

      Singapore btw, isn’t the mantra still Credit Card, Condo and Corolla in Sg?

      • 0 avatar
        silverkris

        You’re talking about the 5Cs in Singapore – Credit Card, Condo, Career, Car and Club. Car doesn’t necessarily mean a Corolla – it could be any particular make. Private cars in S’pore are outrageously expensive – probably 3x what an equivalent car would cost in North America.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        @silverkris
        Thanks!
        It was a couple of years since I heard it, but I’m pretty sure that “Corolla” was mentioned specifically ’cause that’s what was deemed achievable due to the heavy taxation on private cars, just like condo instead of some more land intense dwelling. Oddly enough the only private residence I’ve visited in Singapore is a “villa”, not exactly grand but probably costing more then half of Detroit.

      • 0 avatar
        Polar Bear

        Given the insane car prices in Singapore, a Corolla remains a show-off luxury product, yes.

        Here in Malaysia, cars are somewhat less extortionately taxed, “only” by 150% or so. Kind of like in Norway and Denmark.

        Malaysians go test drive a Polo, Golf or Passat and they are most impressed by the design, handling, comfort, engine and interior. And so am I. Volkswagen is making desirable cars these days. The Japanese are boring and out of date by comparison.

        But coming originally from a place where Volkswagen is the biggest car brand I know those Wolfsburg autos. My family back home has owned Beetle, Variant, Passat, several Golf, Audi 80 and a troublesome Sharan. The old ones, before Volkswagens became objects of desire, were reliable.

        I don’t know if I with good conscience can recommend a Volkswagen to unsuspecting middle class Malaysians. They are used to Toyotas and Hondas. I drive a 2004 Camry. Waiting time for service is one day. Only wear & tear parts need to be replaced. The darn thing just keeps running.

        Volkswagen gives 5 years warrantee, but what good is that when the waiting time for a plain service can be up to two months, and actually getting something competently repaired can take even longer? At least I think the locals should buy a Volkswagen which is near the end of its model life cycle, when most of the bad bits have been corrected.

  • avatar
    -Cole-

    I had a dream about you Bertel.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    It would be interesting to know what’s happening in the next tier, i.e places 4 to 6.

    Who knows, maybe Hyundai could be sitting in the podium by the end of the decade.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    GM could remain in the top spot if it maintained the badge engineering, multiple-brand cannibalization “strategy” that it had prior to the bankruptcy.

    Fortunately, it has largely stopped doing that. Perhaps being “number one” isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Being in what amounts to a three-way tie isn’t a bad thing, just so long as it’s profitable.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      That is the great irony. GMs marketshare was never greater than when they had Chevy, GMC, Buick, Cadillac, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Saturn. As brands were killed marketshare continued to drop, the customers that GM claimed would jump to another one of their brands simply went off to another American maker, the Asians, or the Germans.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        Irony? No, its reality.

        Any car company is better off when they can:

        Approach a segment and build to demand with a manufacturing footprint to match

        Price to sell that production at a profit

        Everyone wants to see who is #1 and beat up everyone who isn’t. I’ll give two examples….Chevy Cruze and Toyota Tundra…opposite each OEM strength.

        Cruze
        200,000 plus units in the US (many more worldwide)…production and sales. Not heavily incentivized. Solid Avg Transaction Prices. Does it outsell the Civic and Corolla? Nope. One plant cranking them out at high utilization at those high ATP’s. Is the Cruze as ‘successful’ as the Civic or Corolla? Not in terms of sales. Is it a failure? Should GM just give up on small cars because it can’t beat Honda or Toyota? No. They have a small car that is selling much better than previous models. The one factory building them is utilized well. They couldn’t build enough in Lordstown to meet 300,000 units if they wanted to.

        Its no different than Toyota selling the Tundra.

        Tundra. One plant versus GM/Ford building Silverado/Sierra/F150 at many plants. They combined Tundra/Tacoma production there…its an efficient plant cranking out Tundra/Tacomas at levels that support their sales volumes.

        I’m sure Toyota makes money on the Tundra even at lower sales than F150/Silverado/Sierra just as I’m sure that Chevy makes money on the Cruze.

        Its not rocket science…nor does an OEM have to be #1 to make money. Approach a segment and build to demand with a manufacturing footprint to match

        Price to sell that production at a profit.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        Aren’t we mistaking correlation for causation now? If GM had kept their massive stable of brands they might have lost the same number of customers and lost even more money, or, they might have lost even more customers due to R&D being spread across more brands leaving them further behind the competition.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Aren’t we mistaking correlation for causation now?”

        No. The old GM would have built more cars, then used incentives and fleet sales in order to move them.

  • avatar

    I do not know if anyone gets the big picture. May be it is another generalization but GM was #1 in the world because US was industrial powerhouse after WW2. But today US is mostly service economy, financial and other services (see IBM) and Japan and Germany are manufacturing, export oriented superpowers. We have to be proud to be #3 after countries like Germany and Japan. In future US may go down to #4 if China does not slow down or collapses.


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