By on January 21, 2009

Last year, Toyota finished the year with an unsatisfying quasi-tie for the title “world’s largest automaker.” The NY Times reports that ToMoCo has won 2008’s volume battle by a 620k unit margin. According to US News and World Report’s Flow Chart Blog, this is no bad thing. Blogger RIck Newman argues that even the most well-insulated GM executive can no longer deny that things have been going horribly, terribly wrong. The company can move on dot org. It can accept the fact that it’s an underdog that must fight for consumer consideration. It can lose the size queen sheen, and operate as if profits are the real measure of success. (A point GM CEO Rick Wagoner made last year when his minions cooked the books to retain the world’s largest automaker title, before the company ran out of cash.) Most importantly of all, Newman argues, Rick Wagoner can finally tell the truth about cars.

“Up until the last few months, GM’s embattled CEO insisted – when asked – that GM had no intention of relinquishing the top spot to Toyota,” writes Newman. “But he was only saying what he had to. Wagoner and everybody else in the business knew that Toyota would eclipse GM in global sales eventually: Toyota’s share in key markets has been rising, while GM’s has been holding steady or falling. But if Wagoner had acknowledged that, it would have sounded defeatist, in an industry where machismo still matters.”

[Cue: The Village People] 

“Wagoner no longer has to defend an indefensible title. At some point, he’ll have the opportunity to change the storyline from the rise and fall of GM, to the fall and rise. But first he needs to fix a lot of problems, like plunging sales, vast overcapacity, and near insolvency. Once he does that, he can worry about bragging rights.”

Good luck with that. Our tax money is right behind you! Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for a sign that GM’s leaders know how to roll with the changes.

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10 Comments on “GM Is Number Two (And That’s Alright)...”


  • avatar
    wsn

    I read the news. I am surprised that 64% of all GM sales are international (i.e. outside of US).

    If that’s the case, then the legacy cost whining is totally unfounded. As far as I know, GM does not pay a generous benefit plan for those Chinese and Brazilian workers. So, the vast majority of GM cars does not suffer a cost disadvantage. For the portion that does, GM received bailouts equivalent to $10k per car.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    If they haven’t figured all of this out by now I rather doubt this item will turn the tide.

    BTW-Didn’t Toyota brand end up eclipsing Chevy this year in the US market? I think they have had the retail title for a while.

    Time for another round of “Kick Rick”.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    jolo

    GM has been a shitty producer (number 2) for alot longer than they want to admit.

  • avatar
    DeanMTL

    I thought Toyota had been outselling GM since sometime early last year. In any case, I don’t really believe either of these companies should be at the top. It’s a shame that more people don’t have the balls to go out on a limb and buy something that will make them grin; why drive a ‘Rolla when you could be carving up the streets in a Mazda3? It makes no sense.

  • avatar

    The true winner is #3, Volkswagen. GM’s global sales in 2008 dropped 11 percent to 8.36m. Toyota fell 4 percent,to about 9m vehicles. Volkswagen rose 0.6 percent to 6.23m vehicles. Ford doesn’t seem to have reported yet, but you can be assured that they are down as well and solidly in the #4 position.

    VW’s luck are their dismal sales in the US. There was not much to lose when that market tanked.

  • avatar
    like.a.kite

    Hahaha “cooked the books”

  • avatar

    DeanMTL, “It’s a shame that more people don’t have the balls to go out on a limb and buy something that will make them grin; why drive a ‘Rolla when you could be carving up the streets in a Mazda3? It makes no sense.”

    It makes no sense. Are you serious? Most people won’t buy a Mazda3 for the same reason the new Malibu no matter how good it is will never dethrone the Camry or the Accord. Why would anyone in the market for any product or service switch from their existing brand or service provider if they are satisfied with what they currently have? The answer is they don’t unless they are dissatisfied with what they currently have.

    I have a plumber that is fantastic. Now he is a little erratic on his pricing but his skill levels are fantastic and he has given me great service. I am sure there are better plumbers or plumbers as good as he is who have more consistent and better pricing but frankly why would I risk getting a shitty plumber when I know the one I have is good?

    Not everyone is made of money so as to have the balls as you put it to waste it on gambling on something different. Also it might shock you but not everyone has the same tastes, needs and priorities that you have.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    If that’s the case, then the legacy cost whining is totally unfounded. As far as I know, GM does not pay a generous benefit plan for those Chinese and Brazilian workers. So, the vast majority of GM cars does not suffer a cost disadvantage. For the portion that does, GM received bailouts equivalent to $10k per car.

    I imagine a lot of those foreign sales are from Opel in relatively high-cost Europe (don’t know how much Opel has moved to Poland and the like, though).

    Also, if GM’s operations are efficient and profitable overseas its just a testament to how big a drag North American operations are on the mothership as a whole to render it asunder like this.

    I mean, if you’ve got a business representing 36% of your volume and completely subsidized at this point, yet somehow financially dragging the other 64% into insolvency, the operations represented by that 36% must be one hell of a problem.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Sherman Lin-Exactly.
    Enthusiasts seem to have the idea that the rest of the world should be as obsessed with their car purchase as we are.

    And if they don’t do what we think is right or cool we act superior and call them sheeple.

    Frankly, we are probably the ones that need to “get a life”.

    There is nothing wrong with the average Joe buying a boring reliable car and feeling good about it.
    Toyota’s bore me also, but they’ve earned the number one spot with decades of excellence (BTW whiners, I have recently plotted out a pile of reliability data and Toyota’s trendline is pretty level, the only company that can make any kind of claim to being better is Honda, nobody else is close).
    They understand their customers and deliver. If you don’t want one great. Just stop snivelling because others do.

    Kudo’s Toyota!

    Bunter

  • avatar
    snafu

    Sherman Lin gets the anology award. The connection, #2.

    Who – Does – Number – Two – Work – For!
    Yeah, you show that turd whose boss. GM aka the turd.

    My lastest truck has been a thorn in my side, my 06 GTO, that thing is a blast to drive.

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