Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) has forecast that it will sell 10 million cars and light vehicles in 2016. While the number is impressive, it is barely higher than 2015 results. This likely will put the Japanese manufacturer in the top spot among its global rivals in 2016, based on unit sales, particularly as Volkswagen falters.
Toyota management’s exact forecast is 10.114 million, compared to 10.098 million in 2015. Most of these sales will be outside its home market of Japan, which will produce sales of 2.231 million.
Toyota’s strength relies heavily on the U.S. market, where it vies with Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) for second place behind General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM). Toyota’s sales in European lag those of the large manufacturers based there. In China, its sales fall well behind market leaders GM and VW. Tensions with China almost certainly will erode its position. The Chinese government may even take a hand in impeding Toyota’s efforts. The central government of the People’s Republic has done worse to foreign companies that are out of its favor.
The crown held by the top car manufacturer in the world does not mean a leadership in profits. Yet, in Toyota’s case, it is among the most profitable car companies globally. VW’s year started with great promise for both sales and profits, which have been ruined. GM often competes for the world’s top spot. Its poor sales in Europe have held it back. That is unlikely to change, as its unit sales, like Toyota’s, lag behind the Europe-based manufacturers.
In the United States, a rising tide in nationwide sales has lifted most ships for the past three years. If this continues in 2016, and Toyota can best Ford, it will be hard to catch in the race to be the top global manufacturer.
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