Sorry VW, Toyota is still the world’s biggest carmaker

Toyota has fought off a challenge from Volkswagen to keep hold of its title as the world’s top-selling car manufacturer

Toyota cars leave Long Beach, California on a train in 1971. Toyota first overtook GM as the world's biggest car manufacturer in 2008 and has held the top spot every year since 2012

Toyota has reclaimed its title as the world’s top-selling carmaker for a fourth consecutive year, with Volkswagen in at second. VW made headlines last summer with the announcement it had pipped Toyota to the top spot, although the subsequent emissions scandal has set the company back a few paces.

Car sales, 2015







Tokyo-based Toyota sold 10.15m cars in total, slightly ahead of analyst expectations and some way in front of VW’s 9.93m. GM placed third, with a respectable 9.8m vehicles sold in 2015, up 0.2 percent on 2014 in what is the company’s third consecutive year of record sales.

Toyota brought an end to GM’s decades-long reign as the world’s number one automaker in 2008, though three years later suffered at the hands of Japan’s earthquake-tsunami and rook until 2012 to reclaim the top spot. VW’s troubles are similarly seismic and the German automaker has this year suffered its first slump in annual sales in over a decade.

The news in September that VW had fitted ‘defeat devices’ in 11m cars to cheat emissions tests has inflicted pains on Germany’s number one private employer. The US Government is looking to sue VW for $20bn and the carmaker’s fate in Europe remains uncertain. Global domination is one of VW’s strategic priorities, but the emissions scandal has made that feat all the more unlikely.

Although this fixation on global domination may seem like vanity, the importance of scale can hardly be understated in what remains a capital intensive, low margin business.

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