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Toyota Becomes World’s Largest Automaker

Toyota can now soundly claim the title of world’s largest automaker by sales – whether GM includes sales of its Wuling venture or not.

Last year, when Toyota tried to snatch the title from the American automaker – which it had held for 76 years – GM added 500,000 or so Wuling brand vehicles to its sales count, although it only owns 34 percent of the Chinese company. Some publications acknowledged this move, giving GM the title again for 2007 and a 77th consecutive year as the world’s largest automaker. For 2008, no such trickery can be done by the General.

Despite Toyota’s good news, total sales were down for the number one and number two automakers. GM’s total sales – including the Wuling brand – were 8.6 million, down 10.8 percent. Toyota’s global sales were 8.97 million, down 4 percent. Sales of both automakers suffered huge declines last year in the U.S., their single biggest market: GM was down 22.7 percent, and Toyota was down 15.4 percent.

Speaking at the Automotive News World Congress, GM COO Fritz Henderson said last night that retaining the title wasn’t terribly important. Instead, he felt it was more important that the company attain financial stability.

Both automakers are vying for the largest slice of market share at a volatile time for automobile manufacturers. No company’s share is stable at a time when the total market is shrinking, and product quality in every segment is rapidly increasing. With U.S. consumers swinging wildly from trucks and SUVs to fuel efficient small cars and back again, a wave of hybrid and electric vehicles on the horizon, and formerly small players like South Korea’s Hyundai-Kia making viable attempts at massive sales increases, the automotive world has never been more unpredictable.

Source: Automotive News

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