GM Falls Just Short of Catching Toyota in Global Sales

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They'll tell you in Detroit, being #1 isn't the most important thing. After all, it's profits not market share that matters. But you can bet GM wanted to pass up Toyota for the global sales title.

The numbers have been tallied and Japan's largest auto maker outsold America's biggest auto maker, just barely. Actually by fewer than 30,000 vehicles.

Toyota and its partners sold 8.418 million vehicles around the world last year.

GM and its partners sold 8.390 million.

It's the third straight year Toyota took the crown as #1 worldwide, but last year was by far the most impressive win. After recalling millions of vehicles for unintended acceleration and getting blistered with bad press from Japan to the U.S. to Europe, Toyota actually managed to boost sales globally. Yes, sales grew (up 8%) at a slower pace than GM (up 12.2%), but they were still up.

So what does all of this mean in the broader picture? It is worth more than bragging rights. GM execs are right that growing sales only matters if they are growing profits. But as the world moves faster towards global platforms where production will move from market to market, size does matter.

The battle for #1 in the future will increasingly depend on how Toyota and GM fare in India, Russia and Brazil. They are three of the fastest growing auto markets and in all three GM is positioned to do well, as is Toyota. But for now, Toyota remains #1 worldwide.

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