Thu, Jul 26, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Toyota on track to wrest back global top spot from GM

AP, TOKYO

Toyota sold 4.97 million vehicles globally in the first six months of this year, a strong result that could see the Japanese automaker regain its crown as the world’s top automaker from General Motors Co (GM).

The number, released yesterday, underlines Toyota Motor Corp’s powerful rebound from a period of dismal sales, and the resilience of its brand as it gains traction in new markets such as China and Southeast Asia, while clawing back lost market share in the US.

GM, which was No. 1 in world auto sales last year, plans to release first-half global sales on Aug. 2. Its vehicle sales will total 4.56 million, even if it merely matches the first-quarter pace, and will likely approach 4.7 million vehicles, given its strong performance in China and the US, its two largest markets.

GM had held the global sales crown for more than seven decades before losing it to Toyota in 2008 as GM’s sales tanked while it headed toward financial ruin. In 2009, GM filed for bankruptcy protection, needing a US government bailout to survive.

Volkswagen AG earlier this month said it sold 4.45 million vehicles in the first half. It came in second after GM in global vehicle sales last year.

GM had already trailed Toyota for the first quarter of this year at 2.28 million cars and trucks across the globe, while Toyota sold 2.49 million vehicles. Toyota has forecast that it will sell 9.58 million vehicles this year, up 21 percent from last year.

Chizuko Satsukawa, auto analyst for Standard & Poor’s in Tokyo, said Toyota faces intense competition not only from GM and Volkswagen, but from other automakers, including Hyundai of South Korea.

Toyota is counting on its next surge of expansion in Southeast Asia, following other high-growth markets such as China, India and Brazil, she said.

“Toyota’s rebound is impressive, but what’s even more important than the numbers is profitability,” Satsukawa said.

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