Next exit Toyota: World’s largest automakers start the year with the foot on the brake

Reduce speed

Reduce speed

Toyota started the year with something unusual: With a minus sign. The world’s largest automaker produced 828,057 units worldwide in January, that’s 3.2% below January 2014. A few weeks ago, number two Volkswagen already announced that its worldwide growth had come pretty much to a halt in January. In the U..S., January was good, and February will be good. Globally, and that’s how a large automaker views its business, the markets appear to have peaked already.

World’s Largest Automakers
1 Month 2015
Jan 2015 Jan 2013 YoY 2015 proj.
Toyota 828,057 855,145 -3.2% 9,937,000
Volkswagen 817,600 811,500 0.8% 9,811,000
GM No data No data
Source: Company data. GM, VW: Deliveries. Toyota: Production. Blue: Estimate

Missing from the table are data for GM. Officially, the company releases global data only in the course of its quarterly reports, otherwise, when it feels like it. Currently, we don’t have enough data even for a guess. In the U.S., GM was up 18 percent in January. In its largest market China, sales were down 2.4 percent. In Europe, group sales were down 2.8 percent. All of this indicates a flattish, while slightly positive January for the Detroit automaker.

Did the strong American auto market disconnect from the global slowdown? Andrew Smith, auto analyst at Barclay’s, doesn’t think so. He expects “that the pace of U.S. light vehicle sales has reached a plateau, with little-to-no growth ahead.” If Smith is right and the U.S. market runs out of steam, a horror-scenario drawn up by the DailyKanban’s rather primitive forecast model could become true: World’s leading automakers under 10 million for the year. Unthinkable, unlikely, but then, who knows.