World’s Largest Automakers: Toyota beats Volkswagen – in the forecasts, at least

Toyota results - picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

The 2015 race for World’s Largest Automaker promises to be exciting until the finish. (No, it hasn’t been decided yet, a game doesn’t end at halftime.) According to current forecasts, Toyota may keep its crown after all.

Today, at the quarterly results press conference in Tokyo, Toyota distributed its revised calendar year 2015 sales and production plans, and the bottom line hasn’t changed much. Toyota plans to produce 10.2 million units worldwide in 2015, and it plans to sell 10.12 million. According to OICA rules, the race is decided by production.

Last week, runner-up Volkswagen scaled back its goals for the year, shooting for deliveries of 10.1 million units worldwide. Volkswagen did so in the face of a slump in the Chinese market, of which VW is heavily dependent. Toyota is much less exposed to the Chinese market. Coming from a Senkaku-induced depression, Toyota’s Chinese sales actually are still growing, we were told today.

Toyota usually low-balls its targets. A number in excess of the 10.2 million is to be expected unless a catastrophe happens. What’s more, a few more cars are usually found before the number is reported to the world automaker umbrella organization OICA. Their list really decides who is World’s Largest Automaker.  For 2014, Toyota reported 10.285 million units as produced. When the official OICA ranking was published two weeks ago, that number had climbed to 10.475 million Toyotas produced in 2014. That definitive list by the way has Volkswagen far behind at 9.894 million. Interestingly, Volkswagen did not reports its heavy trucks and buses to OICA. Moral: Do not crown another king until the year is over, and then wait some more.

At today’s press conference, Toyota reported record earnings, a fact that irks global automakers much more than a few units less or more. The pronouncement of unheard-of profits has become so routine at Toyota, that the pronouncing was done by two gentlemen from accounting and one for PR. Toyota’s real top brass did not consider the event worthy of showing up at.