Volkswagen sells 9.7 million units in 2013 – GM’s #2 rank endangered

Wolfsburg skies

Wolfsburg skies

Volkswagen said today that it „delivered over 9.7 million vehicles to customers last year.” It did so with a little numbers-engineering, namely by counting the sales of its MAN and Scania brands, which it had not done before. That move however was widely expected, and frankly, many people asked why it wasn’t done earlier. Volkswagen is in firm possession of both companies, and if GM can count 1.5 million Wuling vans, made by a joint venture where GM is a minority shareholder, then Volkswagen has all the rights to count all trucks and buses made by companies where VW owns more than 75 percent of the shares.

Not counting MAN and Scania, the Volkswagen Group delivered 9.5 million units in 2013, a gain of 4.8 percent. With more than 9.7 million units delivered in 2013, Volkswagen could upset the ranking of the world’s largest automakers.

Neither Toyota nor GM have published global data for 2013 yet. Toyota is expected to report around 10 million units, and its #1 rank seems to be safe. For 2012, Toyota had reported 10.1 million produced units to OICA, and this year should be similar if not higher. OICA, the umbrella organization of the world’s automakers, ranks its members by production, not by sales. Unlike Volkswagen or Toyota, GM reports global data only quarterly. When the company reported 9 months results in October, the rough end of year projection was 9.67 million, which puts the race into too-close-to-call territory.

It is unlikely that GM will concede the #2 slot to Volkswagen if the two end up just a few tens of thousand units apart. Those can always be found on some spreadsheets somewhere. However, VW has a joker up its sleeves: MAN holds “25 percent plus one share” in China’s Sinotruck. The company calls itself the world’s second largest maker of heavy trucks and buses and should be good for about 150,000 units a year. Push comes to shove, Volkswagen can coiny all of those as theirs. By putting the number at “over 9.7 million vehicles,” VW kept that option open.

Associated Press, whose car numbers reporting has given repeated cause for criticism in the past, can’t even copy a press release without making a mess of it.  “Volkswagen AG said Saturday that it delivered a record 9.5 million cars and commercial vehicles last year,” writes the wire service.  No, Volkswagen said 9.7 million. At the very end of its report, AP mentions the correct number, but who reads all the way to the end?

Speaking of official numbers, Volkswagen puts its 2013 sales in China at 3.27 million. We expected something like that on Friday. Volkswagen is now officially China’s largest carmaker.