Toyota Dethroned as Largest Automaker; Now in Third Place

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As I recall, when Toyota Motor Corporation passed General Motors in sales to take the crown as the world’s largest automaker – a spot that General Motors had held on to for nearly three quarters of a century – in 2008, many analysts and pundits suspected Toyota would hold onto its spot for many years.

After all, they argued, General Motors was nearly bankrupt, posting its last profit in 2004. Toyota had produced hit after hit and introduced the first commercially successful hybrid model in its Prius model. Nothing it seemed, would stop the company. Not even the spate of recalls on multiple models for unintended acceleration.

Fast forward two and a half years, and not only has General Motors deposed Toyota from its top sales perch and regained the global sales crown, but as an added insult, Toyota now finds itself in third place.

Volkswagen, which has set as its corporate goal to become the largest automobile manufacturer in the world, has slid into the second spot, nipping closely at General Motors heels.

Here are the global sales for each company through the first half of 2011:

  • General Motors: 4.5 million
  • Volkswagen: 4.13 million
  • Toyota: 3.7 million

Part of Toyota’s fall to third place relates directly from the earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck Japan in March of this year. We believe the troubles at Toyota and even Honda go much deeper than being related to the earthquake. And for its part, Toyota is pushing to make up for lost production.

I’m of the opinion that the real race is just getting started, and these three corporations will be trading spots for years, until one of them can put significant distance between the other two rivals. And the only dog we have in this fight is that we hope the competition will lead to better, safer and more affordable cars.

I can’t wait to see sorts of models and technological advances they come up with.

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