By on April 17, 2013

GM published global sales numbers for the first quarter of 2013, and media from The Detroit News to Bloomberg considered it headline material that GM edged out Volkswagen – barely. Who would have thought that the scrappy maker of cars that – if the blogs are to be believed – can’t keep their wires from crossing is breathing down the neck of the formerly mighty General?

Tracking the world’s largest
 automakers: Q1 2013
Q1’13 Q1 ’12 YoY
Toyota 2,434,104 2,705,770 -10.0%
GM 2,360,958 2,278,192 3.6%
Volkswagen 2,270,000 2,160,000 5.1%
Source: Company data. Toyota: Production, estimate
GM: Sales. VW: Deliveries

GM sold 2.36 million units worldwide in the first quarter, the company says. Volkswagen is just 90,000 units behind at 2.27 million sold. GM’s sales grew 3.6 percent in the first quarter while Volkswagen’s grew 5.1 percent – despite a very tough situation at home in Europe.

Toyota will publish its quarterly numbers some time next week, so for the time being we can only extrapolate from the first two months. The picture for the first quarter is what we probably will see for the rest of the year: A very tight race for the top spot that could be won by any of the three once the year is over.

Toyota had planned for a flat 2013 to digest the large increases in the prior year. This was before the island troubles put a crimp in their plans and those of all Japanese automakers in China. Toyota’s worldwide production was down 6.2 percent for the first two months of the year, and we expect this trend to continue.

In the same China, the race for world dominance is decided. Volkswagen sold 769,200 units in China in the first three months, up 21.3 percent from the 633,900 it sold last year. GM kept Volkswagen in check in China by selling 816,373 units, up 9.6 percent. Nevertheless, even there the race is tight, and the two contenders are separated by what counts as rounding errors in China.

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21 Comments on “World’s Largest Automakers 2013: GM Maintains Narrow Lead Over Volkswagen – Tight Race Expected...”

  • avatar

    Could easily have been titled “World’s Largest Automakers 2013: Toyota Maintains Narrow Lead Over GM – Tight Race Expected” since the gap between GM and Toyota is less than the gap between VW and GM.

    As said it is very tight, which no-one really expected a few months ago (even after the island dispute last year). Second place (between GM and VW) was expected to be tight, but with Toyota solidly ahead. It isn`t only China where Toyota is having issues (as noted), but in the US they have lost market share this quarter.

  • avatar

    “that could be won by all three once the year is over.”


  • avatar

    I’m curious: what vehicles are those in the accompanying photo? I’ve never seen the proportions of headlight to grille on a GM car that way.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    VW is on my list for consideration for any new purchases.

    Gubmit Motors? Bwahahahahahahah.

  • avatar

    Both VW and GM have made great strides in reliability. If you check truedelta (alot of time) is about 1 additional trip every other year.

    The very best cars seem to have reliability rates around 1 trip every other year. And the very worst have 1 trip every year or so. With computer design and Japanese style manufacturing – most car companies are fairly reliable.

    Fiat which rates way lower then either of those companies surprised the editors of car and driver with a perfect 40thousand mile run on its 500. They hated the car but it was reliable.

  • avatar

    Volkswagen needs to focus on quality, at least here in the States. They need to get their act together or this new found success will be fleeting. My cousin bought a Jetta not too long ago (on my recommendation) and the car has had a number of issues. The worst was the creaking noise coming from the rear no one could figure out for the longest time. Turns out a number of spot welds were missed on the quarter panel. Seriously? BTW- I don’t get the ‘formally mighty’ comment about GM. They still look pretty mighty to me.

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