Toyota Stays Ahead of GM as World’s Largest Automaker

Toyota Motor Corp. was the world’s largest automaker for a third year in 2010 as a recovery in global vehicle demand outweighed a decline in U.S. sales.

Toyota’s sales, including its luxury Lexus marque and deliveries from affiliates Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd., rose 8 percent to 8.42 million units in 2010, the automaker said in a statement today. General Motors Co., the second-ranked car company, said in a separate statement that worldwide deliveries gained 12 percent to 8.39 million.

Toyota’s U.S. sales slowed 0.4 percent to 1.76 million units last year after the company struggled to recover its reputation following record recalls for defects related to unintended acceleration. While its China sales jumped 19 percent, they trailed GM’s 29 percent surge in the world’s largest market.

“Toyota’s sales in Asia are growing, but in China it’s clearly lagging behind GM and other market leaders,” said Satoru Takada, a Tokyo-based analyst at TIW Inc. “In the U.S., with the recalls, a lack of splashy new models and the top-selling Camry at the end of its cycle, the result is not surprising.”

Toyota shares gained 1.3 percent to close at 3,415 yen in Tokyo. The stock has gained 6.1 percent in 2011.

Volkswagen, GM

Volkswagen AG, the world’s third biggest carmaker, sold

7.14 million vehicles in 2010, an increase of 14 percent, and forecast growth of 5 percent in 2011, sales chief Christian Klingler said on Jan. 10.

Toyota said on Dec. 21 that it expects to sell about 8.6 million vehicles this year. GM’s statement today didn’t include a 2011 forecast.

The U.S. automaker named Dan Akerson, a former managing director of the Carlyle Group, chief executive officer on Sept. 1 and chairman in December. The company, which went bankrupt in 2009, returned to public trading on Nov. 18 following an initial public offering of common and preferred shares that raised more than $20 billion.

U.S. sales at Detroit-based GM rose 6.3 percent to 2.22 million units in 2010, the company said today.

“We have to position the company and our products with the customer first,” Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, said today in response to reporters’ questions about whether the company had a goal of surpassing Toyota’s sales. “The rest of that is just an outcome.”

Reuss spoke at an event in Flint, Michigan, where GM is adding a third shift and 750 jobs to boost pickup production.

Toyota sales, excluding its Hino and Daihatsu units, increased 8 percent to 7.53 million units last year.

Sales at Daihatsu, a minicar unit 51 percent owned by Toyota, gained 4 percent to 783,000 vehicles in 2010, while truckmaker Hino gained 35 percent to 107,000 units, Toyota said.