Toyota-Ford Tiff Shows Challenge of Counting Global Sales

For the second time in seven months, Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) and Ford Motor Co. (F) both claim to produce the world’s top-selling car. The clash shows how counting in the global automotive industry is complicated.

Ford said yesterday that its Focus compact car was the leading global nameplate, with 1.02 million sales last year, citing R.L. Polk & Co. data that pegged Toyota’s Corolla deliveries at 872,774. Toyota replied with a statement late yesterday that said it sold 1.16 million Corollas.

Determining which company is correct isn’t clear cut. Yesterday’s dispute followed a similar spat in August, when Ford claimed a six-month global sales lead for Focus and cited IHS Automotive data that excluded some derivatives of the Corolla such as Matrix in the U.S., the Auris in Europe and the Verso in Japan. Analysts also calculate global sales differently on the basis of autos sold by joint-venture partners.

“There’s no simple answer here -- it’s basically for bragging rights, so you define it however you like to suit your purposes,” Alan Baum, principal of Baum & Associates, an auto consulting firm in West Bloomfield, Michigan, said by telephone. “Suffice it to say these are both global models that are extremely popular and whose sales are likely to grow as the volumes in developing countries increase.”

Photographer: Jim R. Bounds/Bloomberg

A 2011 Toyota Motor Corp. Corolla sits on display at the Fred Anderson Toyota dealership in Raleigh, North Carolina. Close

A 2011 Toyota Motor Corp. Corolla sits on display at the Fred Anderson Toyota... Read More

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Photographer: Jim R. Bounds/Bloomberg

A 2011 Toyota Motor Corp. Corolla sits on display at the Fred Anderson Toyota dealership in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The differing tallies emerged as Ford and Detroit-based General Motors Co. (GM) revamp their U.S. car offerings to win sales in segments dominated for decades by Toyota and Tokyo-based Honda Motor Co. (7267) Fusion, Ford’s mid-size sedan that was redesigned last year, is gaining ground on Toyota’s Camry, the top-selling U.S. car for 11 consecutive years. Camry held a lead over Fusion of 100,830 to 80,558 after the first quarter.

‘Pure Number’

Erich Merkle, Ford’s U.S. sales analyst, reiterated late yesterday that Focus was the “best-selling nameplate.” The 1.02 million figure “is a pure number that is verified by a third party,” Merkle said in an e-mail.

Polk is unable to provide data on global sales by nameplate beyond what Ford has released, said Michelle Culver, a Polk spokeswoman who works for Lambert, Edwards & Associates. The Southfield, Michigan-based company’s global reporting typically lags by three to four months because it tracks more than 80 markets worldwide.

“Toyota sold 1.16 million Corolla nameplate vehicles globally in 2012,” Mike Michels, the carmaker’s U.S. vice president of communications, said late yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “Corolla registrations attributed to Polk come up short by nearly 300,000 units. This discrepancy is glaring and we have requested clarification.”

Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

New Toyota Motor Corp. Corolla vehicles sit on the lot at Stevinson Toyota West dealership in Lakewood, Colorado. Close

New Toyota Motor Corp. Corolla vehicles sit on the lot at Stevinson Toyota West... Read More

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Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

New Toyota Motor Corp. Corolla vehicles sit on the lot at Stevinson Toyota West dealership in Lakewood, Colorado.

F-Series, Fiesta

Ford’s F-Series pickup line was the No. 3 nameplate globally last year, behind Focus and Corolla, and Ford’s Fiesta subcompact was No. 6, according to the Polk data released by Ford. GM’s Chevrolet Cruze small car was No. 8, ahead of Honda’s Civic compact.

Ford rose 2.5 percent to $13.12 at the close in New York. The shares have climbed 1.3 percent this year, compared with a 11 percent increase for Standard and Poor’s 500 Index. Toyota’s American depositary receipts rose 1.2 percent to $108.80. The ADRs have gained 17 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles at aohnsman@bloomberg.net Craig Trudell in Southfield, Michigan, at ctrudell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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