Top 3 Automakers 2011: Bloomberg, Please Report To Remedial Math Class

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

There are days when I wish industry analysts and auto industry journalists should be required to carry maltreatment insurance. This is one of those days. Bloomberg reports that “Volkswagen AG will probably become the world’s biggest carmaker this year, vaulting past Toyota Motor and General Motors on gains in emerging markets.” Pure and unadulterated nonsense.

Bloomberg bases this daring prediction “on the average of three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.” The analysts and their detailed predictions remain unmentioned – which is probably better that way. The analysts see Volkswagen’s sales “rise 13 percent to 8.1 million vehicles this year. GM sales will gain about 8 percent to 7.55 million, while Toyota will drop 9 percent to 7.27 million.”

Excuse me? The totals are waaaaaaaay off.

The percentages jibe halfways. We predicted similar ones last August. Let’s assume, they are right. It doesn’t take a genius to get them straight. Volkswagen just reported 13.9 percent plus for the first 9 months. GM will announce its quarterly results in November, but 8 percent sound about right. Toyota had budgeted a shortfall of 6 percent for 2011, but just for the sake of argument, let’s assume the analysts are right with 9 percent less. Now for the hard part: Let’s do the math.

I don’t know what kind of a spreadsheet Bloomberg is using, but if you apply the predicted percentages to last year’s official numbers ( as supplied by OICA), then GM can hardly gain 8 percent and end up at 7.55 million if they sold 8.48 million last year.

A rise of 13 percent won’t bring Volkswagen to 8.1 million, but to 8.29 million, a little bit less than a million behind the world’s largest carmaker, GM.

And just for the record, 9 percent down from 8.56 million won’t land Toyota at 7.27 million, but at 7.79 million. Not that it matters ranking-wise.


Unless the sky falls (and it would have to fall quickly), the year will end as we predicted it back in June: GM Volkswagen Toyota #3. It also should end with Bloomberg in remedial math class.

The numerical nonsense has already been picked-up widely by likewise mathematically challenged news outlets. One of them is – to our great disappointment – the Financial Times, which usually has its act together.

Instead of rectifying the story, the FT added to the confusion by predicting combined Renault and Nissan sales numbers of 6.8 million. Wrong. Renault and Nissan never consolidated numbers in the past, and probably won’t consolidate in the future either. A usually well informed source told us that the consolidated number would be 8.15 million – if the Alliance would consolidate. This includes results from the joint venture with AutoVAZ, which must be taken in consideration when joint venture results of GM, Volkswagen, and Toyota are counted. This would put the Nissan/Renault Alliance in the #3 slot, but again, it won’t, because they don’t want to be counted as one.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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