Toyota Motor Corp kept its position at the top in global vehicle sales for the first quarter of this year, outpacing rivals General Motors Co (GM) and Volkswagen AG.
Toyota yesterday said that it sold a record 2.583 million vehicles in the January-to-March period, putting the Japanese automaker ahead of Detroit-based GM at 2.42 million and Volkswagen of Germany at 2.4 million.
Toyota’s first-quarter sales rose by more than 6 percent from the same period last year. GM’s sales grew 2 percent, while Volkswagen’s added nearly 6 percent.
Toyota finished first last year with a record 9.98 million vehicles in sales, remaining the top-selling automaker for a second year in a row. GM finished second and VW third.
Toyota is targeting sales of more than 10 million vehicles this year. Toyota officials say being No. 1 is not that important, and they want to be No. 1 in customer satisfaction.
By region, Toyota’s sales for the first quarter grew in Japan as consumers rushed to buy ahead of a rise in the sales tax, which kicked in on April 1. Its sales also grew in the rest of Asia, the Middle East, South America and Africa, according to Toyota.
GM was the No. 1 selling automaker in 2011, when Toyota’s production was hurt by the quake and tsunami in northeastern Japan. The company’s image has taken a hit after a February recall of 2.6 million vehicles for defective ignition switches, a defect the company tied to 13 deaths.
GM and the US government are investigating why it took the firm more than a decade to recall the cars after engineers first learned of the switch problems.
On Monday, GM filed a motion in a US court to enforce a bar on lawsuits stemming from ignition defects in cars sold before its 2009 bankruptcy as it fights proposed class action litigation that seeks to set aside the restriction.
Plaintiffs suing the company also filed a proposed class action lawsuit in Manhattan’s bankruptcy court on Monday, seeking an order declaring that GM cannot use the bankruptcy protection to absolve itself from liabilities.
Late on Tuesday, US bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber in New York issued an order setting a procedural conference for Friday next week to determine how the case should move forward.
Also on Tuesday, GM said it was restructuring its engineering operations to improve the quality and safety of its vehicles.
GM vice president of global engineering John Calabrese is retiring in the automaker’s highest profile executive change since the recent recall of vehicles.
Global product development chief Mark Reuss, to whom Calabrese reports, said the engineering chief’s exit was not related to the recall of 2.6 million vehicles this year. Calabrese, 55, will stay on through August to help with the transition.
Company documents provided to congressional investigators show Calabrese was apprised at least once of major developments of an internal ignition switch probe that led to the recall this year, but his role in the process is not clear. GM declined to comment.