Toyota Motor Corp. beat Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co. to remain the world’s top-selling automaker, despite declining deliveries in the year’s first three months.
Sales fell 2.5 percent to 2.52 million vehicles in the January-to-March period, the Japanese company said today. Deliveries rose to 2.49 million for Volkswagen and 2.42 million for GM, according to earlier statements by the two carmakers.
Demand for SUVs including the RAV4 and the new Lexus NX paced Toyota’s market-share gains in the U.S. during the quarter. Volkswagen continued to struggle in the U.S. and now expects to grow at a slower pace than the rest of the market this year in China, as it misses out on a surge in sales of budget SUVs. Only about 90,000 vehicle sales separated the two in 2014, when Toyota stayed No. 1 for the third straight year.
Entering 2015, Volkswagen looked set to pass its Japanese competitor by adding factories in China to bolster its already-dominant position in the world’s largest auto market. Although Volkswagen has remained the top seller among foreign carmakers in China, deliveries for its namesake VW brand slipped 0.6 percent in the first quarter, while sales of SUVs for Chinese brands more than doubled.
By comparison, SUVs were a point of strength for Toyota in the U.S., where its total sales rose 10 percent. Deliveries of the RAV4, Toyota’s top SUV model, surged 26 percent. The new Lexus NX is outselling competing models from Volkswagen’s Audi and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz brands.
Toyota fell 0.4 percent to 8,432 yen as of 2:13 p.m. in Tokyo trading, while Japan’s benchmark Topix index was little changed. The company’s shares have climbed 12 percent this year.
Toyota has stayed on top globally even as President Akio Toyoda enforced a ban on building new assembly plants since 2013. The pause allowed the company to regroup after an era of rushed expansion contributed to its first annual loss in 59 years in 2009.
“Toyota has said No. 1 is not their target,” said Masaki Honda, a Singapore-based consultant at Frost & Sullivan. “They’re target is to make a better car rather than pursuing the numbers.”
This month, Toyota said it will spend about $1.4 billion to build factories in China and Mexico. The expansion will boost the company’s production capacity by about 300,000 vehicles by 2019.
Toyota released sales and production results for the fiscal year ended in March that help illustrate why the company is expanding outside its domestic market. Output and deliveries in Japan declined for the first time in four years, as industrywide demand fell following a sales-tax increase.
Production outside Japan climbed for a sixth consecutive year to a record, rising 3.3 percent to 6.1 million.