The first quarter was too early for General Motors Co.’s (NYSE: GM) huge recalls to impact its sales. Nevertheless, its cars were outsold by Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) worldwide in a battle that has gone on since the U.S. car company filed for Chapter 11. For decades before that, GM held the crown.
Toyota also edged GM slightly in 2013, primarily on sales in its home market and a strong presence in the United States. It continues to lag behind GM in China, where Volkswagen is the top car company in sales, and in Europe, where VW has the top position as well.
As Toyota announced its first-quarter financial results, it reported global sales of 2.58 million, up 6% from the same period a year ago. Earlier this month, GM reported it had sold 2.4 million, up 2% from last year. GM’s sales include its Cadillac, Chevy, Buick and GMC brands, along with its Opel and Vauxhall brands in Europe. Toyota’s sales include its flagship brand, along with Lexus, Hino and Daihatsu.
VW has chased the two market leaders for the past several years, but extremely low sales in the United States have hurt its prospects.
Toyota has completely recovered from huge recalls in 2010. It eventually paid $1.2 billion to U.S. authorities to settle liability issues. In the public’s mind, the incident is all but forgotten. Toyota’s prospects were hurt again when many of its factories where shuttered because of the huge earthquake in Japan in 2011. Toyota has since opened all those plants.
Toyota has an opportunity to move further ahead of GM, if the U.S. car company’s recalls dent its sales and reputation, particularly in America, where GM has 18% of the market and the lead position. By contrast, Toyota usually sits in the number three spot there, just behind Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F).
For the time being, Toyota’s global lead seems safe.