There's a new number one in the auto industry, though most have seen this coming for a long time. The AP reports, "Toyota took the global sales lead from General Motors in the first quarter" of 2008. Toyota sold 2.41 million vehicles worldwide between January and March of this year, compared to GM's 2.25 million. GM had "barely won the global sales race with Toyota last year." Although Toyota actually built more vehicles than GM in 2007, GM still outsold Toyota that year.
The Detroit News notes, "Toyota beat GM in last year's first quarter as well, but GM pulled even by the end of the year." If GM is to catch up, it may need to do so outside the U.S. "North American sales, where the U.S. auto industry is struggling with what's expected to be the slowest sales year in more than a decade, were down 10 percent" last quarter. While U.S. sales were declining, worldwide sales rose 3 percent. Strong auto sales in Asia drove the trend.
Still, Jesse Toprak, chief industry analyst for the auto information site Edmunds.com told the AP, that "the figures show that it's likely Toyota will outsell GM worldwide this year, even if the U.S. economy recovers in the second half."
Bloomberg reports that GM is "the largest overseas vehicle maker in China," and plans several "new models to spur sales growth in the country in the second half of the year." At the Beijing Motor Show this week, the General is displaying the new Buick Invicta, which may key that growth. Buick is one of the most popular nameplates in China, seen there as a status symbol with a premium luxury image. The Invicta will probably come to the U.S. as the next Buick LaCrosse.
Autoblog warns not to read too much into Toyota's new claim to the sales record. "It means very little in the grand scheme of things who sells more cars globally. But titles like this can be used to good effect in marketing and for bolstering an automaker's internal morale, so don't expect either one to admit they don't want the mantle of World's Best-Selling Automaker."
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