World's Largest Automakers 2012: A Tight Race That Toyota Could Win

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
world s largest automakers 2012 a tight race that toyota could win

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 VW Toyota all separated by a wide margin.

This year it’s different.

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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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3 of 12 comments
  • CJinSD CJinSD on May 08, 2012

    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.

    • Imag Imag on May 08, 2012

      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.

  • Bertel Schmitt Bertel Schmitt on May 08, 2012

    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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