The Dream of 2009 is Alive in 2017: Volkswagen Named Sales Winner, by a Hair

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
the dream of 2009 is alive in 2017 volkswagen named sales winner by a hair

It’s a good news kind of day in Wolfsburg, despite fears of further indictments from U.S. authorities and an ongoing investigation by pesky German investigators.

After spending years jockeying with rival Toyota for the sales crown, Volkswagen finally pulled ahead in 2016 to become the world’s top automaker, fulfilling a goal set in 2009. The architect of that global dominance strategy — ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn — might not share the elation of his former colleagues, as he is currently under investigation for fraud.

In total, Volkswagen Group divisions delivered 10.3 million vehicles last year, topping Toyota’s tally by a thin margin. The previously best-selling automaker sold 10.2 million, making this race something of a photo finish.

Still, despite the closeness of the results, a podium is a podium. The scandal-plagued automaker saw its global sales fall significantly in 2015, hitting 9.9 million for the year, but controversy wasn’t enough to stop growing demand for the brand in China, as well as the surging popularity of the premium Audi and Porsche brands.

Meanwhile, Toyota saw its sales rise modestly from just under 10.1 million units sold in 2015. The latest full-year tally is less than the 10.3 billion the automaker recorded in 2014.

Both automakers are counting on new or refreshed utility vehicles to stimulate U.S. sales. Toyota will launch the C-HR crossover this year, while Volkswagen recently released the midsize Atlas and a larger Tiguan. It’s difficult to predict how an increased emphasis on style at the traditionally staid Toyota will play out with buyers.

The folks in Wolfsburg has best enjoy this victory, as there are growing signs that next year could see the automaker cede the crown to its rival. Headwinds are growing in key markets, Bloomberg reports. In China, a small-engine tax looms, threatening to snuff out the brand’s growth. Meanwhile, VW plans to scale back the leasing fleet it makes available to its vast German workforce.

There’s also the unanswered question of how President Trump’s proposed trade policies will impact European automakers — making for a year of uncertainty, and not just for Volkswagen.

[Image: Volkswagen]

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2 of 26 comments
  • RHD RHD on Jan 30, 2017

    Although so many believed VW to be Number Two, Volkswagen has prevailed, and is actually Number One. It just may prove be Number Two next year.

  • Whatnext Whatnext on Feb 07, 2017

    What? Where are all the TTAC armchair experts who kept telling us that VW is finished and we should expect to see them in bankruptcy? The inability of many Americans to comprehend there is a world outside their borders never ceases to surprise.

  • Alan I blame COVID, the chip shortage, container shortage and the war in Ukraine. This aggression is evident in normal daily driving of late.
  • Alan $10 000 is a bit rich for a vehicle that most likely been flogged all its life, plus it's a VW. Lots of electrical gremlins live in them.
  • Alan Mitsubishi, Hino and Izuzu trucks are quite common in Australia. Another factor that needs to be taken into account are the cheap Chinese trucks and vans that are entering the market in Australia and becoming more popular as reliability improves, with huge warranties. Businesses want the cheapest logistics. Plumbers, concreters, builders buy many of these in their lightest versions, around 2.5 tonne payload. Hino/Toyota could use the cheaper competitor in Mitsubishi as a competitor against the Chinese. You don't see too many of the Japanese/Asian trucks in the rural areas.
  • 2ACL I think it's a good choice. The E89 didn't get respect due to its all-around focus when new, but it's aged well, and the N52/6HP combo is probably more fun and capable than it's given credit for.
  • Wjtinfwb I can hear the ticking from here...