Toyota Reclaims Top Spot as World’s Largest Auto Manufacturer

photo provided by Toyota USA Newsroom

After a tumultuous 2011 that included one of the worst national disasters in Japan's history, Toyota has reclaimed its title as the world's best-selling automaker. According to an article by's Tim Higgins, Toyota sales rose 34% in the first six months of the year, while Toyota reported that sales increased by almost 60% from June 2011 through June 2012.

At mid-year, Toyota has sold 4.97 million vehicles globally, besting General Motors Co. (GM) by 300,000 units and Volkswagen AG (VW) by 520,000. Both GM and VW saw substantially smaller sales increases, with GM global deliveries rising by 2.9% to 4.67 million, and VW increasing by 8.9% to 4.45 million.

The results show that Toyota should have no trouble regaining the annual lead in global auto sales as well, thanks to production having fully recovered from the tsunami that damaged plants in Japan and Thailand. Having full production capabilities helped Toyota reclaim sales in its two largest markets: the U.S. and Japan. Meanwhile, GM and VW have faced shrinking sales in Europe due to the continent's economic troubles.

While some experts in the industry believe that Toyota's lead is substantial enough at mid-year that neither GM nor VW will be able to catch them, others believe the brand could lose momentum. The strong first half of the year for Toyota may have been because Toyota was finally able to re-stock dealerships last year after finally recovering from the impact of the tsunami, which may have led potentials buyers to wait until this year to buy, according to the article.

The storyline of Toyota overtaking GM is one that the automotive world has already experienced when Toyota took the top the top spot as the U.S. market collapsed in 2008, resulting in GM's bankruptcy and reorganization. GM regained the spot again after the production of Japanese vehicles lagged following the tsunami.

In addition, Higgins pointed out in his article that GM's release of the Chevrolet Cruze, which sparked massive amounts of small car sales for GM, was benefitted by Toyota's limited presence in the U.S. last year as a result of decreased inventory. Sales of the Cruze soared to 231,732 units in 2011 from just 24,495 after arriving in 2010. This year's numbers also support the theory, since sales of the Cruze have fallen by 7.4% so far this year.

Another factor in Toyota's reemergence is the company's aggressive incentive spending in the U.S. for 2012. According to the article, Toyota spent on average of $1,942 in June, compared to $1,579 on incentives during the 2009 calendar year.

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