General Motors said its worldwide sales fell 10.8 percent in 2008, ending its 77-year claim as the worlds largest automaker.
GM sold 8.36 million vehicles last year, putting it about 616,000 units behind the 8.97 million reported yesterday by Toyota Motor Corp.
The 2008 results cap an advance by Toyota that has seen the Japanese automaker overcome a 3 million-unit deficit since the start of the decade, fueled in large part by gains in the United States. In 2008, both automakers posted sales declines.
At the time of the announcement, just before 9 a.m. ET today, GM defined itself on its Web site as the annual global industry sales leader for 77 years. The description will change to one of the worlds largest automakers, said GM spokesman John McDonald.
GM COO Fritz Henderson said last night that retaining the title wasnt terribly important, to him. He told the Automotive News World Congress that its more critical that GM -- which hasnt posted a profit since 2004 and has tapped $4 billion in U.S. loans to pay its bills -- is strong financially.
The most important thing is to make GM successful, he told reporters later. On the financial metrics, they long ago passed us. So we have a lot of work to get GM done, and any undue time spent worrying about this metric is time wasted.
According to Automotive News calculations, which account for some sales in China differently, Toyota overtook GM in 2007.