Volkswagen Loses Global Sales Lead to Toyota Amid Diesel Scandal

Toyota Reclaims Biggest Automaker Title
  • Volkswagen sales continued declining amid diesel admission
  • Toyota readies new Prius hybrid for fourth quarter deliveries

Volkswagen AG lost the lead in global auto sales to Toyota Motor Corp. after claiming the No. 1 spot three months ago, as the German carmaker braces for consumer blowback from a widening emissions-cheating scandal.

Toyota said Monday it sold 7.49 million vehicles this year through September, topping the 7.43 million that Volkswagen reported earlier this month. Deliveries declined 1.5 percent for both Toyota and Volkswagen.

The results include less than two weeks of sales reporting by Volkswagen after its admission to rigging diesel engines with software that deceived regulators about pollution levels. While the German automaker led Toyota in global sales through the first six months, it’s now readying repairs to 11 million vehicles worldwide and has stopped sales of diesel models in several markets as it brings engines into compliance. The company is also facing a slowdown in demand in China, its largest market, with its namesake brand declining 7.4 percent in the first nine months.

“Toyota will be the No. 1 for this year,” Koji Endo, an auto analyst at Advanced Research Japan, said by phone. “VW may be facing sales difficulties due to the scandal toward next year in Europe and the U.S., and I don’t see the Chinese market coming back anytime soon.”

Winterkorn’s Push

Volkswagen’s emissions scandal led to the resignation of Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn, who had pushed the company to surpass Toyota and General Motors Co. and become the world leader by global sales. GM’s deliveries dropped 1.9 percent to 7.2 million vehicles during the first nine months of the year.

As Volkswagen stumbles, Toyota is now preparing to begin deliveries of its updated Prius hatchback. After almost seven years without a redesign, the company is promising a sportier ride for its top-selling hybrid, an improvement in fuel economy of about 10 percent and an even bigger boost for an Eco version of the model. Sales begin in Japan before the end of the year.

Toyota planned to add about 1,400 workers at factories in Japan to ramp up production of the new Prius and its updated Land Cruiser sport utility vehicle, people familiar with the matter said in August. As one of the top-selling models within Toyota’s lineup built exclusively in the company’s home market, the Prius will help boost Japan exports. Toyota’s also betting improved acceleration and added safety features will lift demand for the $80,000 Land Cruiser, its most expensive SUV, in markets including the U.S.

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