Toyota retains crown for global sales

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 2:19am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 2:19am

Toyota Motor outsold General Motors and Volkswagen to lead the global vehicle industry for the second straight year and forecast 3.4 per cent growth for this year on rising demand in the US and China.

Worldwide vehicle sales at Toyota, including deliveries from subsidiaries Hino Motors and Daihatsu Motor, rose 2.4 per cent to 9.98 million units last year, it said yesterday. That compared with the 9.71 million units sold by GM and more than 9.7 million units at VW. Sales would probably rise to 10.32 million units this year, Toyota said.

Toyota chief executive Akio Toyoda retained the No1 ranking while piling up profits, out-earning GM and VW combined in the most recent quarter. Still, he faces resurgent American carmakers fielding their best cars in decades and an aggressive Volkswagen that is increasing investments in the US and China.

"The competition is getting more intense," said Sanjeev Varma, the managing director at Stellar Alliance Group. "VW is No1 in China, GM No1 in the US, and all three automakers are scaling up investment in product development and on new models."

The stock has climbed 60 per cent last year, compared with a 51 per cent gain for the broader Topix index.

Last year marked a turning point for Toyoda, who took over as president after Toyota's first annual loss in almost six decades. After years of being haunted by global recalls, natural disasters, a soaring yen and a Chinese boycott against Japanese products, Toyoda got what he wished for: a disaster-free year.

The Toyota scion cleared out the remnants of top management inherited when he took the helm in 2009, laid out a more clearly defined corporate structure with a greater focus on emerging markets, and appointed three outside directors to join the board for the first time.

Toyoda, grandson of the company's founder, is also pushing an overhaul of vehicles with an emphasis on waku-doki design, shorthand for the Japanese phrase for heart-racing qualities.

"What Toyoda has been doing is to go back to Toyota's original philosophy and focus on products and long-term goals," Goldman Sachs analyst Kota Yuzawa said. "Last year was the first year his efforts began to bear fruit."

In China last year, as GM lost its top spot to VW for the first time in nine years, Ford overtook Toyota despite a record year for the Japanese carmaker.

Demand recovered as consumers returned to showrooms with the fading of tensions over a territorial dispute.