Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest automaker from 2008 to 2010, sold the most cars and trucks in the world in the first three months of the year as it made up for production lost to natural disasters in Asia.
Sales of Toyota, Lexus, Scion, Hino and Daihatsu models rose 18 percent to 2.49 million in the quarter, the company said in a U.S. regulatory filing. That puts the Toyota City, Japan-based automaker ahead of Detroit-based General Motors Co.’s 2.28 million and Volkswagen AG’s 2.16 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“They have a new sense of competitiveness and they certainly are bringing their volume back,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive in Troy, Michigan. “They have some new product around the world that’s helping, with the new Camry and the Prius family.”
Toyota became the world’s largest automaker by unit sales in 2008, as the U.S. market collapsed and GM slid toward its 2009 bankruptcy. GM regained global leadership last year and Wolfsburg, Germany-based VW jumped to second place as Toyota’s output was limited after the March earthquake in Japan and later flooding in Thailand.
“Although being No. 1 is not the main goal for us, it’s nice to see because hopefully it shows we’re on the right track,” said Jim Wiseman, Toyota’s North American vice president of external affairs. “With customers reacting so positively to all of the new and updated products we’re introducing this year, we’re optimistic the good momentum will continue.”
Both Toyota and GM have come a long way, Jim Cain, a GM spokesman, said in an e-mail.
“We’re making progress on our plan for profitable growth and we’re seeing strong sales of our newest products, especially at Chevrolet, which has been the fastest-growing global brand for the last two calendar years,” Cain said.
Toyota this week forecast its profit to more than double to a five-year high as the company rebounds from last year’s natural disasters and introduces new models to regain market share.
The maker of Corolla small cars said this week that deliveries, including those of subsidiaries Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd., will grow 18 percent to 8.7 million vehicles in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.
Sales in North America will lead the increase, climbing 26 percent to 2.35 million units, Toyota said. Deliveries in Japan will rise 6.2 percent, 34 percent in the rest of Asia and 10 percent in Europe, according to Toyota.
Toyota’s U.S. Sales
Through April, Toyota’s sales in the U.S. expanded 12 percent to 665,328 vehicles, faster than the industry’s 10 percent increase, according to researcher Autodata Corp. in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.
The company’s U.S. pace may slow because it had higher-than-usual fleet sales in 2012’s first few months, Schuster said. Fleet sales accounted for about 20 percent of the company’s U.S. sales, up from a normal 10 percent, he said. Such sales are typically less profitable compared with sales to individual consumers.
“We do expect a pullback in volume and share at least here in the U.S. because of less fleet volume,” Schuster
Globally, Toyota, GM and VW will remain locked in a tight race for the sales lead, he said.
“You still have a very aggressive target for Volkswagen this year and in the coming years,” Schuster said. “It’s going to be most likely this back and forth dogfight over volume leadership globally.”
Toyota’s American depositary receipts fell 1 percent to $79.73 at the close yesterday in New York. They’ve risen 21 percent this year. GM fell 0.3 percent to $22.37 in New York.