World’s Largest Automakers 10/2020: Toyota and Volkswagen neck and neck, Alliance limping

With two more months to go, world’s largest automakers Volkswagen and Toyota are in a virtual dead heat. Meanwhile, the frail Franco-Japanese Alliance is falling more and more behind. By the end of October, the Toyota and Volkswagen Groups were separated by less than 12,000 units.  Their performance is matching global total industry volume for passenger vehicles that was down 17.5% YTD.

While the world is slowly recovering from the COVID disaster, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, down 30%, is still in the ICU. The sickest of the three is Mitsubishi Motors, which reduced its YTD output by nearly 40%. Nissan was down 32.2%, Renault a more palatable 23.5%.

The race for World’s Largest Automaker will be decided in World’s Largest Automarket China, which is recovering much faster than other major markets. October auto sales in China were up 12.5% YOY, and down only 4.7% January through October. Volkswagen Group is more exposed to China than Toyota.

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 its numbers very hard to find. Our 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. Nissan makes matters worse by insisting on reporting its data on a fiscal year (April through Mach) basis only. Like so many things at the Alliance, its data are a mess.

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