World’s Largest Automakers, half-time: Toyota and VW in dead heat, Alliance near dead

6 months into the year, and most thereof coughing and sweating, Toyota and Volkswagen are neck and neck, while the wheels are coming off at 3rd-placed Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. Separated by less than a rounding error (33,533, pointless due to the differences in methodology, see below), the results of Toyota and VW (both down 28%) mirror the (no quite) vital stats of the global auto industry, which was down 28% in the first half year. All things considered, Toyota and VW are doing O.K.

The (alleged) Alliance is a completely different story. At half time, the flailing Franco-Japanese coalition is down 38%, with the bulk of the blood-letting going on account of Nissan. Renault and Mitsubishi both are down 34%, Nissan however enters the second half of the year with a whopping 41% loss of its prior-year production to its discredit.

What the Alliance needs (and needed) is a strict taskmaster, but he’s still sitting in a villa in Beirut, from where he lobs occasional verbal grenades. Once again, we see the stupidity of a palace revolution during a crisis, which usually results in a palace in ruins.

Who will be World’s Largest Automaker by year’s end? Hard to tell, but it most likely will be down to the vagaries of a virus, and less to managerial moxie. Yet, Volkswagen has revved-up impressively in the past months, so the dynamics currently favor the Germans. One thing is clear: The times of the +10 million each Top 3  are over, at least for this year.

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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