January 21, 2009

Toyota replaces General Motors as No. 1

CARS - For the first time in 78 years General Motors is no longer the biggest car manufacturer in the world. Toyota has claimed that prize. Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. sold more cars and trucks last year than General Motors Corp., stripping the Detroit automaker of the No. 1 global sales crown.

GM announced today it sold 8,355,947 cars and trucks around the world in 2008, falling about 616,000 vehicles short of the 8.972 million Toyota announced yesterday.

GM also posted an 11% drop in global sales for the year, blamed the decline on the steep drop in vehicle demand in its key North American and European markets.

North American sales dropped 21% for the year. GM Europe sales fell 6.5%, including a 21% plunge in the fourth quarter.

Toyota's sales fell 4% for the year, marking that automaker's first global sales decline in 10 years.

Toyota's move into the top sales spot wasn't a huge surprise. The automaker nearly toppled GM in 2007, selling only about 3,000 less vehicles than the U.S. company did that year. It should be noted Toyota has plenty of factories in North America too, so it is not wholly a Japanese company any more.

General Motors received a $13.4 billion loan from the US federal government in December and has been closing plants and laying off workers to cut production as it faces the worst U.S. auto market in more than 25 years.

Today GM shares fell 22 cents (down 6.3%) to $3.28 in morning trading, while Toyota's U.S. shares rose 38 cents to $66.28.

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