Move Over Toyota: VW Leads Global Sales for 2015
By Burt Carey
German automaker Volkswagen surpassed Toyota in the first six months of 2015, selling 5.04 million vehicles to become the world’s top carmaker by sales.
Industry analysts are weary, however, facing an unsure market in China, where economic struggles and a faltering stock market could have an impact on Volkswagen’s sales for the rest of the year. China is VW’s largest single market.
Toyota, which sold 5.02 million vehicles so far this year, is one of several automakers suffering from a massive recall over Takata airbags, which have been linked to explosions that send shrapnel flying at drivers and passengers involved in accidents.
Volkswagen’s numbers are slightly down from the first six months of 2014, partly due to the Chinese economic woes and because of challenges in Russia and Japan. But a 6 percent increase in US sales helped it overtake Toyota for the first time since the Volkswagen Group announced in 2007 that it aimed to become the world’s top-selling brand by 2018. Volkswagen also owns the Audi and Porsche brands.
General Motors, despite having pulled its Chevrolet brand from Western Europe and its manufacturing and sales from Russia, finished the first six months of 2015 in third place with sales of 4.86 million vehicles.
All three automakers are dealing with declining sales compared to this time in 2014. The Volkswagen Group is down around 30,000 units, a drop of 0.5 percent. Toyota was down 1.5 percent, and GM’s sales dropped 1.2 percent.
Volkswagen depended on a solid performance in Western Europe (up 6.9 percent), where it is traditionally strong and where demand for new vehicles has increased at the fastest rate in the past 5-1/2 years. The 19 countries that use the euro in Europe are experiencing a long stretch of economic growth, putting auto sales on more solid footing in countries where Volkswagen dominates.
The global auto industry has expanded every year since 2009 but faces a stalling market in China, vastly decreased demand in Russia and soft sales in Southeast Asia and South America. Industry-wide deliveries increased just 4.4 percent in the U.S. during the first half of the year, the smallest annual gain since 2009.
Looking to the remainder of 2015, Toyota and GM hold an advantage over VW in the US market, but the German automaker promises to introduce several new SUV models to compete in the country’s most popular body style. VW faces stiff competition from Mercedes-Benz to hold onto the top import spot in Japan.
In addition to Audi and Porsche, the Volkswagen Group also has the Skoda and Seat brands. Its sales on the commercial vehicle side include the new T6 Transporter, as well as the MAN and Scania truck brands.
Toyota counts Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino (heavy truck) vehicles among its sales. And GM includes Buick, GMC, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Opel, Vauxhall, Holden and some China-only brands such as Wuling in its sales figures.