The World’s Largest Automakers

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After being third behind GM and Volkswagen in 2011, Toyota regained the top spot in 2012 as the largest auto manufacturer in the world, according to a recent report. Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) and General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) have vied for the top spot for years.

The lead position will be challenged in the next several years by several companies, including Volkswagen, as it tries to make good on its promise to become the number one company in the industry. Meanwhile, a resurgent Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and South Korea’s Hyundai also are expanding their model lines and manufacturing facilities around the globe. In the not too distant future, five companies may be competing for the top spot as the world’s largest carmaker.

Click here to see the world’s largest automakers

Global vehicle production can be counted in several different ways. By cars built alone, Volkswagen actually is the number one manufacturer, Toyota is second and GM is number four. However, including light vehicles such as SUVs and pickups, Toyota is first, GM moves up to second and VW drops to third.

Some manufacturers make a great deal of their sales from heavy trucks as well. These are sold almost exclusively to businesses. Toyota produced well over a quarter million heavy trucks in 2012, pushing it further into the lead over GM, which built fewer than 8,000.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the world’s largest manufacturers based on production of cars, light trucks and heavy vehicles. This is a better measure of each company’s global footprint in the industry than just cars. Heavy trucks are a large part of sales at some of these companies and a much smaller one at others. Either way, truck production can be more profitable than car production. GM recently released its light truck models for 2015. It made it clear that the trucks were important because they are such a profitable part of GM’s line.

Auto sales in China are now a major factor for carmakers that dominate globally. America was the largest car market for decades. That has changed in the past 10 years. While car ownership per household has been relatively high in America, Europe and Japan, privately owned cars are a recent development in China. With more than 1.3 billion people, compared to just over 300 million in the United States, the potential car market in the country is huge.

The only factor that stands in the way of rapid expansion in the People’s Republic is concern about the tremendous air pollution, which exists in almost all big cities. One of the reasons GM and VW have done so well in global sales is that they are the sales leaders in the Chinese market. The other large manufacturers have begun to add more production facilities in China in the hopes they can take some of VW and GM’s market share.

To identify the world’s largest automakers, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed global auto production numbers from 2012 from Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles, or OICA.

These are the world’s largest automakers.