Toyota, which saw its sales rise 8% last year despite its recall woes, sold 8.42 million vehicles worldwide in 2010, news agencies reported Monday. That was enough to barely edge out a resurgent General Motors (GM), which rang up sales of 8.39 million, a 12.2% increase from the previous year. Toyota surpassed GM in 2008 as the world's largest supplier of motor vehicles.
GM fell about 28,000 vehicles shy of surpassing Toyota in 2010, compared to a difference of some 330,000 vehicles in 2009, Dow Jones Newswires reported. Strong sales in China, where Toyota has less of a foothold, helped Detroit-based GM to narrow the sales gap with its Japanese rival.
GM's sales soared 29% in China, home to the world's largest car market, surpassing Toyota's 19% gain there, Reuters reported. In the U.S., GM saw its sales grow 6.3% last year, slower than the industry average but ahead of those of Toyota, which were flat last year.
"Looking at the current sales momentum, it's hard to say whether Toyota will be able to keep its top position for a fourth straight year" in 2011, Mamoru Kato, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center, told Dow Jones.
GM and Ford Come On Strong
Although its sales rose in 2010, Toyota struggled throughout much of the year due to massive safety recalls of cars, trucks and SUVs worldwide. Overall, the carmaker recalled some 8.5 million vehicles, mostly to repair problems related to sudden unintended acceleration, for which Toyota faces numerous lawsuits. The company's behavior regarding the recalls led to nearly $50 million in fines from U.S. regulators.
Though Toyota barely edged out GM in total sales, the Japanese automaker remained well ahead of Germany's Volkswagen, which seeks to supplant Toyota as the world's largest automaker by 2018. Volkswagen said earlier this month its sales rose by about 14% to 7.14 million vehicles, Dow Jones reported.
GM is expected to maintain its sales momentum in its domestic market this year as the U.S. economy regains steam. Toyota, meanwhile, continues its effort to recover from the recalls that drove many consumers into showrooms of its rivals. Last year, Ford Motor (F) outsold Toyota nearly every month and regained the No. 2 spot in the U.S. in total yearly sales for the first time in three years.