World’s Largest Automakers, May 2020: Toyota still on top of a very ugly market

A Corona-crisis on top of already deteriorating auto sales was like pouring gasoline on a brush fire: Year-to-date, global auto sales are down 30%, data used by OEMs show. In the month of May, global registrations were down 34%, with all major markets deep in the reds, all except China (up 8%) and South Korea (up 10%). Among the hardest hit markets were the UK (-87%) and India (-85%). That had to leave deep bruises on global OEMs, and it did. Two out of the three largest automakers of the world fared just a little better than the overall market. One fared much worse.

Five months into the year, #1 Toyota Group is down 28.9% YOY, Volkswagen is down 29.7%. Toyota still has a comfortable lead over #2 Volkswagen Group, however, the 164K unit lead of the Japanese is a little less comfy than last month’s 365K advantage over the Germans.

3rd-ranked Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, deteriorating by 37.4% over last year’s levels, more and more turns into a basket case. Surprisingly, Nissan, down 37.4%, no longer is the worst performer of the frayed Alliance. Renault, with YTD global registrations down nearly 40%, takes that cake now. The group really needs a ruthless cost cutter, but he’s holed up in a house in Lebanon.

If you thought the 2009 carpocalypse was bad, you are bound to change your opinion. Remember, at the end of 2009, global auto production was down “only” 12.4 % YOY.

Strangely, it has barely entered public discourse.

And now the necessary caveats:

The race for World’s Largest Automaker is not decided by sales, but by production, and this analysis attempts to track production, not sales, because this is how the world automaker umbrella organization OICA ranks automakers.

Due to the different methodologies of their measurement, “sales” numbers have proven to be unreliable, and are prone to ‘sales reporting abuses,” as recent scandals in the U.S., along with rampant “self-registrations” in the EU have shown. OICA doesn’t rank automakers by sales for a reason, and if you ask for sales data, you’ll hear a terse “the OICA secretariat does not have any further data.”

At the same time, data reported by automakers are becoming increasingly hard to compare.

Toyota reports production and sales. Volkswagen reports “deliveries” to wholesale – which can be cars dumped on dealer lots, or actual sales to customers. Volkswagen also makes the numbers very hard to find. The Alliance numbers used to be a blend of production data reported by Nissan and Mitsubishi, and deliveries reported by Renault. As of September 2018, Renault started to report sales only, forcing us to use those. Like so many things at the Alliance, its data are a mess.

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