World’s Largest Automaker 2015: Either Toyota, or Volkswagen

Akio Toyoda - Picture courtesy Bloomberg

At this time of the year, DailyKanban usually dares to make its first tentative estimate of who will be the world’s largest automaker by the end of the year. Right now, all we can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that it will be either reigning Toyota, or Volkswagen. GM stands little chance.

World’s Largest Automakers
4 Month 2015
Jan-Apr 2015 Jan-Apr 2014 YoY 2015 proj.
Toyota 3,365,083 3,466,393 -2.9% 10,095,000
Volkswagen 3,340,000 3,310,000 0.9% 10,020,000
GM 3,226,667 3,221,371 0.2% 9,680,000
Source: Company data. GM, VW: Deliveries. Toyota: Production.
Blue: Estimate

Toyota has handed in its April global sales and production numbers. Volkswagen did likewise a few weeks ago. GM announces its numbers only quarterly, and will therefore be submitted to the torture of crude estimation.

Toyota’s deliveries are down as planned. Toyota is still in its scheduled pause of expansion, the impending end of which it has been announced in March. Volkswagen’s global deliveries are up a little less than planned, but they are up nonetheless. GM is treading water.

Currently, Volkswagen is separated from Toyota by only 25,000 units. Ending the year as the world’s largest automaker would be a great triumph for Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, and his water carriers. Nothing would make the Piech saga be bygone faster than a coronation of Volkswagen as the World’s Largest Automaker, three years before the deadline set by the Strategie 2018.

This of course heightens the temptation to goose the numbers, if necessary. In Europe, self-registrations by dealers and manufacturers already are rampant. China, where I am at the moment, is rife with rumors that some sales numbers are exaggerated, and that they have been so for years. China is the market where the race for world’s largest automaker gets decided. The Chinese market is huge, the data situation is opaque, and 60,000 units more, or less, won’t attract a lot of attention.

Note: Dailykanban.com tracks production, not sales, because this is how the world automaker umbrella organization OICA ranks automakers.

Toyota reports both sales and production, we take production. Volkswagen reports “deliveries” to wholesale – which is, at least for this exercise, close enough to production. GM did the same, but begun reporting retail sales for the Chinese market, which should make the situation more inscrutable that it already is.