Toyota Motor Corp held onto its status as the world’s top-selling automaker in the first quarter of this year, although the three-way race with General Motors Co (GM) and Volkswagen AG is proving tight as Toyota’s sales fall in China and Japan.
Toyota yesterday reported that it sold 2.43 million vehicles in the period between January and last month, outpacing US automaker GM at 2.36 million vehicles and Volkswagen of Germany at 2.27 million vehicles.
Toyota’s first-quarter sales declined 2.2 percent from a year earlier, while GM’s were up 3.6 percent and Volkswagen’s rose 1 percent.
The Japanese maker of the Prius hybrid car and Camry sedan reclaimed its crown as world’s top automaker last year, after losing it to GM a year earlier, when it was battered by the tsunami and quake disasters in northeastern Japan.
Toyota’s sales have been hit by a resurgence of anti-Japanese sentiment in China because of a territorial dispute and some Chinese are worried about being seen driving a Japanese car. The end of subsidies for “green” vehicles in Japan hurt Toyota sales in its home market.
Toyota’s quarterly vehicle sales were down 13 percent in China and down 15 percent in Japan, compared with the same period last year.
However, the company is roaring back in North America, where sales rose 7 percent, as well as in many Asian nations, where it is relatively dominant.
Separately, Daimler AG yesterday said profits this year would be lower than last year as it reported a 60 percent slide in first-quarter earnings amid slumping auto sales in Europe.
The company said net profit fell to 564 million euros (US$733 million) from 1.42 billion euros in the same quarter a year ago. Revenue was down 3 percent at 26.1 billion euros and profit fell short of the 810 million euros expected by analysts surveyed by financial information provider FactSet.
Daimler laid much of the blame on the economic problems afflicting many countries in Europe.
“Many markets developed worse than expected for economic reasons, especially in Western Europe,” CEO Dieter Zetsche said.
Stuttgart-based Daimler said it expected the US and Chinese markets to grow, but warned that European car sales would decline further this year.
“The German market cannot detach itself from this development and is expected to fall significantly short of the previous year’s level,” the company said.
Meanwhile, French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen said it would launch talks with what is known as social partners to make the group more competitive and possibly close a plant earlier than expected, after posting an annualized 6.5 percent drop in first-quarter sales.
The French term “social partners” most often refers to trade unions. Peugeot said it was in the execution phase of a GM alliance.
The quarterly sales figure of 13.03 billion euros amid a chronically weak European auto market led Peugeot to focus on a “strong increase in sales in China,” and to confirm a decision to cut its operational cash consumption by half this year to reach a break-even point in its cash flow by the end of next year.
Sales by the group’s purely auto units plunged by 10.3 percent to 8.7 billion euros as key markets such as France, Spain and Italy continued to suffer from a poor economic climate.
The French company said it had a 31 percent jump in unit sales in China in the first three months of this year, compared with the same period a year earlier, to give it a 3.9 percent share of the world’s biggest auto market.