Ta-ta: Toyota now finally, officially, really, honestly World’s Largest Automaker 2014


Readers of the DailyKanban have known it all along, for about six months actually, but now it is completely official: Toyota remains World’s Largest Automaker, at least for this year. Volkswagen is solidly in the #2 position, trailed by GM in #3.

World’s Largest Automakers
12 Month 2014 (final)
Jan-Dec 2014 Jan-Dec 2013 YoY
Toyota 10,285,546 10,117,274 1.7%
Volkswagen 10,140,000 9,730,000 4.2%
GM 9,924,880 9,714,652 2.2%
Source: Company data. GM, VW: Deliveries. Toyota: Production.

Toyota today announced its production and sales for December and calendar year 2014. At the DailyKanban, we focus on production, not on the somewhat elastic term of “sales.” For more, see the disclaimer. Toyota has produced 10,285,546 units in 2014, including those made by its Daihatsu and Hino divisions, and foreign joint ventures. That’s off by 0.6 percent from the DailyKanban’s forecast of July 2014. But hey, it’s free, real consultants charge money.

Contravening Detroit’s dire blow-back predictions that the lower yen will send another wave of Nipponese cars across the Pacific,  2014 production in Japan actually decreased by 1.8 percent in 2014, elsewhere in the world, production rose by 4.2 percent.

Toyota’s year-on-year growth, a mere 1.7 yoy , is the smallest of all three top automakers, but it is so by design: Since 2013, Toyota is following a basically no-growth strategy, often internally referred to as “walking the landing of a staircase.” This allows it to digest recent gains, to implement its upcoming TNGA architecture, and to avoid getting caught up in idle capacity as it was during the 2008/2009 carmageddon. In 2013, it was announced that Toyota would build no new factories until fiscal 2016 (which will start on April 1, 2016.) Ever since, Toyota repeated its “lull in growth” mantra, quarter after quarter after quarter, until it was understood that they really mean it, and that at Toyota, “sustainable” is no after the fact synonym for “we screwed up.”

Toyota has been running its plants at a global capacity utilization rate of around 95 percent, and with no money spent for bricks and mortars, that quarterly profit announced on February 4 should be as phenomenal as the ones in the past.

Standard car counting disclaimer: The world automaker umbrella organization OICA ranks automakers according to overall production, including heavy trucks and buses. So do we. Toyota reports both sales and production, we take production. Volkswagen and GM report “deliveries” to wholesale – which is, at least for this exercise, another word for production. For crowning purposes, OICA and the DailyKanban do not track “sales” due to methodical differences around the world. For more on the dangers of car counting, see here.