GM published global sales numbers for the first quarter of 2013, and media from The Detroit News to Bloomberg considered it headline material that GM edged out Volkswagen – barely. Who would have thought that the scrappy maker of cars that – if the blogs are to be believed – can’t keep their wires from crossing is breathing down the neck of the formerly mighty General?
|Tracking the world’s largest|
|automakers: Q1 2013|
|Source: Company data. Toyota: Production, estimate|
|GM: Sales. VW: Deliveries|
GM sold 2.36 million units worldwide in the first quarter, the company says. Volkswagen is just 90,000 units behind at 2.27 million sold. GM’s sales grew 3.6 percent in the first quarter while Volkswagen’s grew 5.1 percent – despite a very tough situation at home in Europe.
Toyota will publish its quarterly numbers some time next week, so for the time being we can only extrapolate from the first two months. The picture for the first quarter is what we probably will see for the rest of the year: A very tight race for the top spot that could be won by any of the three once the year is over.
Toyota had planned for a flat 2013 to digest the large increases in the prior year. This was before the island troubles put a crimp in their plans and those of all Japanese automakers in China. Toyota’s worldwide production was down 6.2 percent for the first two months of the year, and we expect this trend to continue.
In the same China, the race for world dominance is decided. Volkswagen sold 769,200 units in China in the first three months, up 21.3 percent from the 633,900 it sold last year. GM kept Volkswagen in check in China by selling 816,373 units, up 9.6 percent. Nevertheless, even there the race is tight, and the two contenders are separated by what counts as rounding errors in China.