World’s largest automakers 2014: Toyota first, Volkswagen second, GM third. And this is how the year is going to end – probably

Akio Toyoda - picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

The world’s largest automakers have handed in their production numbers for the first half of the year. As predicted, the race is tight. However, the rankings have not changed. Six months into the year, Toyota is well ahead of number two Volkswagen, with GM only 50,000 units behind in number three. The stats are deceiving, and GM’s chances to get to the number two spot by year end are next to nil.

World’s Largest Automakers
6 Month 2014 Production
Jan-Jun 2014 Jan-Jun 2013 YoY 2014 proj.
Toyota 5,174,796 5,054,940 2.4% 10,350,000
Volkswagen 4,970,000 4,690,000 5.9% 10,165,000
GM 4,921,928 4,853,443 1.4% 9,844,000
Source: Company data. GM, VW: Deliveries. Toyota: Production

First of all, Toyota is doing better than it – conservatively as ever – budgeted at the beginning of the year. Toyota planned for 10.25 million units produced worldwide in the fiscal going from April 2014 through March 2015. If TMC remains on its current trajectory, it will close out the calendar year at 10.35 million units, 100K ahead. Sales in Japan, where one in two regular cars carries a Toyota badge, have not collapsed as expected after the sales tax increase. Sales of kei cars, where Toyota’s Daihatsu commands a 31 percent market share, are up strongly in Japan. Despite a weaker yen, exports from Japan are down, but production abroad is running at full tilt. Foreign production is at a record high for both the first half of the year, and the month of June.

With 5.9 percent growth, Volkswagen is the most dynamic of all three. Sales in the U.S. may be lagging, but elsewhere, they are strong. Volkswagen is the number one automaker in the world’s number one market, China. In Volkswagen’s home market Europe, the worst appears to be over, and VW survived the decade-long European slump in better shape than is EU peers.

With only a 1.4 percent increase over the first half of 2013, GM has the slowest growth of all three. Being 50,000 units behind VW, GM appears to have a fighting chance to better its position, but in fact, it hasn’t.

At the six month mark a year ago, Volkswagen was 160,000 units behind GM, seemingly without a chance to catch up.  When the year was over, Volkswagen was ahead of GM.   How did they do it? Volkswagen added-in MAN and Scania, sales which were not reported throughout the year. Like its peers, Volkswagen will report its annual production including heavy trucks and buses. Volkswagen Group companies MAN and Scania produced 225,000 units in 2013. Adding those into our estimation, as one should, and as VW will, Volkswagen could end the year more than 300,000 units ahead of GM. Toyota could finish some 200,000 units ahead of Volkswagen.

Volkswagen may grow more than twice as fast as Toyota, but its goal to outdo Toyota probably will have to wait yet another year.

Note: 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 and GM report “deliveries” to wholesale – which is, at least for this exercise, close enough to production.

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