By on June 28, 2012

If the year would have ended on May 31st, Toyota would be the world’s largest automaker by a wide margin, followed by GM, and a distant third, Volkswagen. The year is not over until it’s over, but 5 months are a good indicator for the rest of the year. Let’s have a look.

5M ’12 5M ’11 YoY Proj ’12
Toyota 4,359,616 2,694,817 61.8% 10,463,000
GM * 4,040,000 3,878,000 4.2% 9,696,000
Volkswagen 3,650,000 3,370,000 8.3% 8,760,000
* projection based on Q1 data, no 5 month data available

Based on hard production data delivered by Toyota and Volkswagen, and an educated guess for GM, Toyota can end the year with more than 10 million units produced, followed by GM with 9.7 million and Volkswagen with 8.8 million units. We are forced to guess GM’s performance. Other than its peers that deliver global data on a monthly basis, GM only delivers global data in its quarterly report. We will have to wait until August to receive better data. However, our very simplistic straight-line model tests out quite well against known 5 month data of GM, as supplied for NA, China, and Europe. We count all divisions and subsidiaries, Toyota includes Daihatsu and Hino, just like GM includes Wuling, and like Volkswagen includes every last Lamborghini

The fact that Toyota’s internal (and usually very conservative) plan calls for 9.7 million units for the current fiscal gives further credence to this projection.

Toyota clearly has shaken off the demons of witch hunt, earthquake and Thai floods. Toyota is still accelerating where others lose steam. 5 months into the year, GM barely grew in the U.S. It is up 11 percent in China, it is down 11 percent in Europe. Volkswagen finds itself dragging an increasingly heavy boulder called Europe. Like its Asian peers, Toyota does not have much market share in Europe, and where you don’t have much, you don’t have much to lose. GM’s exposure to Europe is halfway between Toyota and VW. Volkswagen is betting its reputation and the career of countless managers on becoming the top car company by 2018. Currently, they are going backwards.

GM’s propaganda operatives find themselves in a tricky position: GM’s only chance to win the 2012 race lies in a rebound of the Chinese market, where GM outperforms. This rebound would refute the ideology of China being on its last gasp, just about to keel over. Choose your poison.

Usual note: The numbers used are production data, not sales data. Not because we cherry-picked the better set. Production data are used for the ranking of World’s Largest Automaker by OICA, the umbrella organization of global auto manufacturer associations, and if you want to replicate that ranking, usage of the correct data is advised.

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11 Comments on “World’s Largest Automaker 2012: Toyota Leads After 5 Laps...”

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    “Toyota is still accelerating…”

    A metal shim should fix that problem. Arf arf!

    Back to topic, whilst being number 1 should be great bragging rights, it’s a bit of a poisoned chalice. If Toyota wins it, they’ll fall under the NHTSA’s spotlight again and may be taken to the cleaners….again.

    If Volkswagen win it, more customers will be exposed to their suspect reliability, before they can iron out those problems. (sorry, but I still remain unconvinced about Volkswagen. I’m sure they’ve improved a lot, but I think they still have a long way to go), plus because of their distant third position, Volkswagen can only win this title buy either piling up the incentives or getting product out of the door to make up numbers.

    If GM wins it, it may hurt their bottom line as I believe, their profit margins on their products are still small and GM are still trying to fix that. Lose money on each unit, but make it up…..blah blah blah.

    I hope I’m wrong, but past experience tells me that this is a race that no-one should WANT to win…

    • 0 avatar

      Volkswagen would need an earthquake in Aichi AND a tsunami in Detroit to win this. No chance.

      • 0 avatar

        I actually dont think VW needs any help. They are Number 1 in revenue or profit so no big deal. They currently according to Wards are the most profitable.

      • 0 avatar


        That’s entirely false. Please don’t make up financial news yourself.

        Revenue €159.3 billion = US$197.8 b
        Profit €15.4 billion = US$19.1 b

        Revenue ¥18.583 trillion = US$234.0 b
        Revenue ¥283.55 billion = US$3.57 b

        The data is taken from Wiki. The VW data shows “2011”, while the Toyota data shows “2012”, as they have different ways to define a fiscal year.

        As you can see, even in Toyota’s, relative speaking, weakest year (last year), Toyota’s revenue still beat VW soundly and still had a small profit. The gap will be much larger this year, and Toyota’s profit will sky-rocket. (Auto industry has huge fixed cost, so a little increase in revenue will lead to large increase of profit.)

        VW may have sold more units than Toyota last year, but the smaller revenue is due to the fact VW is a lower end company than Toyota. Since VW barely sells in Japan and Toyota barely sells in Europe, let’s compare their American and Chinese markets. In both of those markets, Toyota’s best selling model is Camry. In the US, VW’s top model is either Golf or Jetta (can’t remember exactly), but not Passat. In China, VW’s top model is Santana (roughly 1/4 the price of a Camry).

      • 0 avatar

        Folks, when talking about results, please ALWAYS go to the official data, never rely on anybody, especially not Wikipedia, don’t even rely on TTAC.

        Here are the official results:

        Volkswagen, Results per 12/31/2011
        fx: EUR0.765 to $1

        Revenue EUR159.34 $208.28

        Operating profit, EUR11.27 $14.73

        Profit before tax EUR18.93 $24.74

        Profit after tax EUR5.80 $7.58

        Toyota, Results per 3/31/2012
        fx: JPY 78 to $1

        Revenue JPY18,583.60 $238.25

        Operating profit JPY355.6 $4.56
        Profit before tax JPY432.8 $5.55

        Profit after tax JPY83.5 $3.63

        All results billion. Fx rate Japan as per 12/31/2011. If you want the 3/31/2012 fx, it was 82.8

      • 0 avatar

        Dear Bertel:

        You rock.

  • avatar

    “I actually dont think VW needs any help. They are Number 1 in revenue or profit so no big deal. They currently according to Wards are the most profitable.”

    Which counts a lot more than # of units.

  • avatar

    Excellant point about profit! And knock on wood, my 2008 GTI with 66K miles has been very good.

  • avatar

    dejal1 You are right. Number 1 when it comes to money in the bank matters most.

  • avatar

    Toyota is “still accelerating” b/c it has recovered from the effects of the tsunami and has launched a no. of new generations of models (Camry, GS, etc.) and have a few more slated like the RAV-4.

    GM has yet to launch the non-e-assist version of the new Malibu, and has sales of the XTS, ATS and new Impala on tap, among others.

    Also, Toyota has upped its fleet sales % while GM has cut back, so in proper context, it’s not as bad as it seens for GM (tho, I don’t expect GM to give Toyota more of a race for the sales crown until 2013).

    • 0 avatar

      Get real. GM sells far more to fleet than Toyota does, and Toyota’s fleet numbers are grossly inflated due to still being on the hook for contracts that were to be done before the tsunami hit and they are now filling back orders and will be down to less than 10% fleet by later this year.

      And GM just launched the Sonic, Cruze Eco, Verano, and Malibu Eco, so Toyota isn’t seeing gains just because they have new models and GM is selling old ones.

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