Toyota And Volkswagen In Fierce Battle For World’s Largest Automaker Title – Forbes

Posted: Tuesday, November 29, 2016

(Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

With only two laps to go in the race for the title of World’s Largest Automaker, Volkswagen squeezed ahead of Toyota by just 9,000 units in year-to-date deliveries, data released by the companies show. Separated by a rounding error, the two global auto giants are in a neck-on-neck battle that promises to be thrilling up to the last round.

Both automakers produced nearly 8.5 million units in the January through October period, and are set to pass the 10 million mark before the year ends. Volkswagen, up 2.6% year-on-year, looks livelier than Toyota, which increased its output by a scant 0.5% compared to the same period of last year.


In total, Volkswagen’s global customers appear to shrug off the dieselgate scandal. Picking up speed in the final sprint, worldwide deliveries by the Volkswagen Group grew 4.7 percent in October, powered by a 11.3% surge in VW’s main market China, and a stampede to beat the expiration of a Chinese tax cut on purchases of vehicles with smaller engines. 35% of Volkswagen’s global deliveries were made in China this year, exposing the company to big headaches during the hangover that usually follows after sales went high due to state-administered amphetamines. Toyota is less exposed to China, and it is down 3% YTD in its all-important U.S. market.

Officially, automakers tend to discount the importance of who’s on top, claiming that happy customers are all they strive for. Even Volkswagen, which during the reign of former CEO Martin Winterkorn aggressively pursued the goal of becoming the world’s largest OEM, recently begun to say that there are nobler objectives. Of course, this is hardly the full truth. Scale, and the ability to turn huge up-front investments into profits, is one of the most important words in this business. Scale at all costs however can get expensive, as Volkswagen’s example shows. Fearing a global downturn in this cyclical business, Toyota for many years has been skittish about investments into new plants, focusing more on wringing more efficiency from what it has, “while focusing on achieving sustainable growth within our capabilities,” as Toyota spokesperson Ryo Sakai told me in Tokyo.

Among other Japanese OEMs, Nissan’s global production rose 6.6% in the first ten months of the year, Honda’s 10%.

Number 3 General Motors fell far behind the dueling giants, with no chance of a change of position in the last months of this race.


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