3 to contend for '13 global sales title
Toyota Motor Corp. rebounded sharply in 2012 to pass General Motors and Volkswagen AG and reclaim the global sales crown. But in 2013, all three automakers have a shot at taking the top spot and cracking the 10 million unit barrier.
Toyota reported sales of 9.75 million vehicles worldwide last year, up 23 percent from a troubled 2011 when it finished third.
GM sold 9.29 million units and Volkswagen AG 9.07 million, but other automakers have not released full-year figures. The totals gave GM a 3 percent rise over 2011, dropping it to No. 2, while VW rose 11 percent but fell a spot to No. 3.
Combined, Toyota, GM and VW sold 28.1 million vehicles last year, 35 percent of the world's 81 million units, LMC Automotive said.
The totals include everything from minicars to heavy-duty trucks, excluding only two- and three-wheelers. Toyota's count includes Daihatsu minicars and Hino heavy trucks; GM includes Wuling light commercial vehicles; and VW's tally includes MAN and Scania heavy trucks.
To become the first automaker to achieve 10 million sales, Toyota needs a 3 percent rise in volume in 2013. GM would have to grow 8 percent, while VW would need a 10 percent boost, or just under its 2012 growth rate.
GM was the undisputed global sales leader for decades -- until Toyota took its place in 2008. GM regained the crown in 2011 as Toyota battled product-quality and disaster-related production woes. But the Japanese automaker surged last year in the United States and its home market.
"Toyota rebounded faster and stronger than the industry expected," said LMC forecaster Jeff Schuster.
The major players have varying strongholds. VW is the sales leader in Europe and China but No. 8 in the United States with a 4.2 percent share. GM is in the top four in each: No. 1 in the United States, No. 2 in China and No. 4 in Europe.
Toyota was No. 3 in the United States last year, No. 4 in China, but only No. 10 in Europe. Yet it dominated in Japan, with a 46 percent market share in 2012 compared with 1.5 percent for VW and 0.1 percent for GM, LMC said. Toyota sold 2.4 million units in Japan last year.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. may have trouble matching last year's 27 percent growth in the United States, Schuster said.
"The heated U.S. market is another wild card," he said. "It's not easy to retain share with all the others lining up to take it from you."
With China's growth slowing and Europe and Japan expected to decline in 2013, the United States is a prime target for all automakers. GM, Toyota and VW executives predict growth there, and analysts agree.
"We see GM stabilizing its market share, remaining No. 1," said analyst Tom Libby of Polk, which expects GM's U.S. share to top 18 percent from 17.9 percent last year and modest share gains for VW and Toyota.
All three automakers expect to grow worldwide in the midterm, though only VW has announced a goal to be the global sales leader by 2018.
The most ambitious part of VW's plan is reaching 1 million U.S. sales by 2018. Libby expects VW's Audi brand to reach its 200,000 unit goal but the VW brand to fall short of 800,000 by then.
"Volkswagen is driven to become No. 1 in the world, but GM and Toyota are putting the emphasis on other things," he said. "After their troubles in recent years, they won't let a [sales race] make them ignore the basics."
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