GM falls further behind Toyota. Who cares?

Here’s an irrelevant bit of news. Global sales at General Motors fell 11% in the third quarter to 2.1 million vehicles, knocking it further behind Toyota. The Japanese juggernaut beat GM by more than 100,000 sales. I’m sure the harried executives in GM’s C-suite are fretting over that one.

The company is delaying new-car programs to save money and weather the recession while cajoling Washington for cash or loans to make it through next year. The sales race against Toyota? Who cares. It’s a race GM can no longer even afford to think about, not when government intervention might be needed to stave off bankruptcy.

Besides, If GM ends up acquiring Chrysler from Cerberus Capital Management—which is looking more and more likely as talks progress—GM will preserve enough Chrysler business to move convincingly ahead of Toyota.

But then, GM will have a lot of work to do. Management will have to restructure Chrysler while fixing its own mess. No one expects car sales to rebound until later in 2010. The only race on anyone’s mind will be Detroit’s car companies scampering for survival.