Toyota May Have Actually Beaten GM in 2007 Sales
Basically every media outlet first reported on Wednesday that Toyota and GM had sold almost an identical number of new vehicles in 2007. That number was 9.37 million (for GM, it was specifically 9,369,524, and for Toyota, it was 9.37 million units). Since GM’s figure rounded up to 9.37 million units, both automakers appeared to be tied for the title of “world’s largest automaker.” What wasn’t certain at the time was whether Toyota was also rounding up to 9.37 million as GM did, or if it was rounding down to 9.37 million.
Around 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, Reuters broke with news that an unnamed source inside Toyota pegged their number at a more precise 9.366 million, apparently giving the title to GM. The difference between the two figures, depending again on whether Toyota’s number was more precise, was around 3,000 to 3,500 sales, or about 0.06%.
Twenty four hours later, however, Automotive News broke with the headline, “We call it: Toyota topped GM in 2007.” They went on to explain that GM was counting Wuling-branded vehicles sold in China and manufactured by its joint venture with SAIC, called SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co. The problem with GM including these Wuling vehicles in its global total is that GM only owns 34% of the company, while SAIC (which stands for Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.) owns 50.1%. Automotive News stated that industry practice is to exclude sales figures for only majority-owned subsidiaries, so it deducted the 516,435 units of Wuling sales from GM’s total to arrive at a new figure of 8,885,599 vehicles. This is the same counting treatment that Ford gets for Mazda; Ford owns 33.4% of Mazda, so Mazda sales are not counted in Ford’s global sales total.
Clearly, this makes a large difference in the quest for global bragging rights. Though both companies play down the importance of being #1, both companies also surely would like to hold the title.
I have no problem with the logic employed by Automotive News except that Toyota has not released its detailed 2007 sales number (nor does it expect to for another month or so), and I don’t see how AN can be sure that Toyota is excluding any non-Toyota-branded vehicles made in joint ventures. I am not aware of any such ventures, but there may be some.
As of today, though, it sounds like there’s a new #1 in the race for global automotive supremacy. Will it last for 76 years as GM’s reign did? Will GM take back the title, or will Volkswagen swoop in and take it, as they hope? Time will tell.