By on May 8, 2012

Now that GM has published  global production numbers in its quarterly report, we can take a first read of how the race for world’s largest automakers may end this year. It will be a tight race. And GM is likely to lose the title it took last year.

That Toyota would surrender the title World’s Largest Automaker to GM was clear before 2011 had started.  Toyota had a very timid production plan for the year.  In the first quarter of 2011, Toyota already was in the #3 position, and the effects of the earthquake and tsunami had barely been felt at that point. The rest of the year is history. GM #1, VW #2, Toyota #3, all separated by a wide margin.

This year it’s different.

Q1 ’12 Q1 ’11 YoY Proj ’12

2,705,770 1,996,068 35.6% 10,652,000

2,424,000 2,327,000 4.2% 9,402,000

2,317,000 2,065,000 12.2% 9,156,000

At the end of the first quarter 2012, Toyota leads with 2.7 million units produced globally, followed by GM with 2.4 million, close behind is Volkswagen with 2.3 million.

When Toyota announced its 2012 sales plan and budgeted for a growth of 21 percent in 2012, some people thought the Japanese company was overly optimistic. In the first quarter of 2012, Toyota is already 35.6 percent ahead of Q1 2011. Further into the year, bigger percentage gains are possible due to a tsunami and flood ravaged base in 2011, and a Toyota juggernaut that is still picking up steam.  Toyota planned for 9.6 million units this year. Judging from the first quarter, more than 10 million are possible.

Likewise based on the first quarter, Volkswagen is likely to fall back to #3 by the end of 2012, with GM taking the number two position. GM’s growth rate for Q1 was relatively anemic with 4.2 percent. It is possible (albeit unlikely) that  Volkswagen relegates GM to the #3 position.

This analysis is based on production numbers, because production numbers will be used to establish the final ranking.

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12 Comments on “World’s Largest Automakers 2012: A Tight Race That Toyota Could Win...”

  • avatar

    Nice production based disclaimer at the end. Each automaker could ramp up production at anytime and change the outcome. So so much focus four months in?

    • 0 avatar

      Building cars you can’t sell promptly is a good way to go bankrupt. TM hasn’t done so much of that. GM… they do have some experience in that regard.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m a firm believer in the paradigm that a business or corporation should succeed or fail on its own merits.

        Bailing out and nationalizing failed businesses to advance the interests of one group at the expense of the taxpayers (i.e. bailing out the UAW or financial speculators) detracts from the good of our society, and indeed, as we see currently in Europe and Asia, from all of mankind.

        6% living the high-life at the expense of the other 94% just does not sit well with me, nor should it with any other tax paying American.

        Anyone familiar with automotive history would easily recognize that Ford was instrumental in rebuilding the Toyoda industries in Japan after WWII and helping to convert them from wartime-production to civilian-centered production. Toyota has come a long way since those early days of devastation after WWII.

        More importantly, for decades after, Toyota has consistently brought durable, high quality goods to the market place that have motivated generation after generation of car buyers to put their money on Toyota products.

        In stark contrast we have what used to be called ChryCo and General Motors. Each was a crucial contributor to the efforts of WWII as well. We could not have won the war without them.

        But since that war these two auto manufacturers have gone stale and had been on a decades-long downward spiral of decline and losing marketshare ultimately resulting in failure and bankruptcy in 2009.

        As a recent convert to Toyota products I am thrilled at the prospect of Toyota setting the standard of the world once again in production, quality and marketshare, something that was severely damaged when they started making them in America, using American suppliers, and made even worse by natural disasters and a determined DOT to undermine their reputation.

        Ultimately it is up to the buyers around the globe to determine who deserves the crown.

        As a former owner of GM products of the past, my vote is to take our financial losses and pimp GM to some foreign automaker in China or India.

        For those who disagree with that, let me point out that Chrysler, now owned by Italian firm Fiat, is doing much better, thank you, than at any time prior to the bail outs and hand outs, which includes the time Chrysler was owned by German firm Daimler, and whose very existence was threatened by the financial burden Chrysler placed on it because of UAW demands.

        I chose to buy a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee over another Toyota Highlander because the JGC was clearly the better product of the two.

        Now it is up to the buyers to show Toyota that not all Americans side with Ray LaHood and the DOT.

      • 0 avatar

        The collapse of GM, and to a lesser extent Chrysler, would have turned the “Great Recession” into another Depression.

        Yeah, I’m peeved that the taxpayers had to get involved, but more peeved that the banking/finance giants that got us into this mess in the 1st place ended up getting bailed out.

      • 0 avatar

        Remember South Korea bailed out Hyundai and Kia and we saw how that turned out.

      • 0 avatar

        In the banking and finance world of 2008, the Bush administration selectively chose which firms would get bailed out and which would die.

        There’s no way of telling now if we would have had another Greater Depression had we let them all fail.

        Obama’s administration just took the bail outs, hand outs and nationalization over the top, basically using the Treasury as the backup plan for failed companies by buying up the troubled assets and saddle the taxpayers with it all.

        It’s a done deal now. We have to make do the best we can with the lot that our elected officials have cast for us, our children and our grand-children.

        But when it comes to choosing what car or truck to buy, we have a choice! If we simply must buy American, there is always Ford.

        But if we choose the buy the best value on the market we may find that Chrysler, although now a foreign-owned car maker, has some pretty good products.

        If we want long-standing quality, value, reliability and durability, Toyota comes to mind and the sales numbers support that.

        So I would not be surprised if Toyota pulls this off and becomes the world’s biggest and best.

    • 0 avatar

      NormSV650: “Nice production based disclaimer at the end. Each automaker could ramp up production at anytime and change the outcome. So so much focus four months in?”

      I agree. GM’s 9,402,000 figure is definitely counting on production that cannot be sold without a huge price reduction, which will gradually lead to another bailout.

      • 0 avatar

        But if you are operating on and speculating with the tax payers’ money while assuming no risk of your own, isn’t that the way to go?

        And can those annual price-reductions not be marketed as a huge token of gratitude on the part of GM and the UAW to the tax payers who bailed out Government Motors?

        I know several people who scooped up a 2011 Silverado at $10,500 off MSRP this year. Great deal if you like GM and trade them off before the warranty expires.

      • 0 avatar

        I not sure if incentives work for the world sales like they do fo NA.

        GM and Ford both make Forbes Top 500:

  • avatar

    I’m just glad that the current sales leader isn’t synonymous with low quality products, like the top 2 were last year. It makes the world look like a smarter, saner place.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. It’s nice to see long term thinking prevail.

      That is why it is also nice to see Akio Toyoda at the helm vs. Ken Watanabe. The latter seemed intent on turning Toyota into a Japanese General Motors. The decontenting on his watch grabbed a lot of short term profit, but almost destroyed the company’s reputation.

  • avatar

    The production remark was not a disclaimer. It was an explanation for readers who are not familiar with the numbers jungle. OICA, the international manufacturer association that keeps track of these things, uses production, not sales. Like it or not, if you want to project a winner, you need to go by the rule book.

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