Toyota Feels the Aftershock: Sales Slump Post-Earthquake, Automaker Falls to Third Place

File this one under “expected, but still disappointing.” Worldwide sales of Toyota cars worldwide have dipped so far after the Great East Japan Earthquake that the company now ranks third amongst global automakers for the first half of 2011. For now, it appears the current king is none other than General Motors.

Toyota (along with subsidiaries Lexus, Daihatsu, and Hino) scored a bronze medal for car sales between January and June 2011 by selling 3.71 million units. Commendable, but it wasn’t enough to maintain its reign as the world’s most popular automaker. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, Toyota shuttered all 12 of its Japanese factories, slowly re-opening them as recovery efforts mounted.

Toyota production figures are rising as parts supplies return to normal, so it’s to be expected that sales are steadily rising: U.S. Toyota, Lexus, and Scion sales increased 2.4 percent in June and 17.9 percent in July. But it wasn’t enough: GM sales increased 8.9 percent in the first half of the year to 4.536 million sales, trailed by Volkswagen’s 4.13 million units. The silver lining: Toyota’s sales are still roughly double of Hyundai Motor Company, whose newly upgraded models are proving to be a thorn in the Japanese marque’s side in the North American market.

Toyota predicted in April that its recovery period, or the point at which production will return to pre-quake levels, would be between November and December of this year, but has since changed its outlook and pushed the date forward to roughly September. After that point the marque expects sales to level, allowing time for assembled units to be shipped to market.

Sources: Bloomberg, Toyota