The New Age
Volkswagen may have become the world’s top-selling automaker in the first quarter as government incentives have fuelled demand in its major markets, overtaking industry giant Toyota. The German automaker, with its nine car and truck brands including Audi, Skoda, Seat and Scania, has set a goal of overtaking Toyota and General Motors Corp to be the world’s No.1 seller by 2018 — a target that was initially met with scepticism.
But a deepening recession and credit crisis have crippled demand in Toyota’s top markets, with U.S. sales falling 38 percent and Japan sliding 24 percent in January-March. Volkswagen, meanwhile, is benefiting from government stimulus plans for the car industry that have boosted sales in Germany, China and Brazil, which together accounted for 44 percent of group sales last year, making it more likely that it beat Toyota or at least came close.
Alone in Germany, new registrations of Volkswagen group brands rose 19 percent to about 282,000. Toyota sales grew 43 percent but its market share is just 4.4 percent whereas about every third new car sold in Germany came from the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer.
Toyota, which significantly outsold every other manufacturer in 2008, is not entirely without blame for its volume declines, however. The Japanese carmaker has seen sales fall every month of this year in China, its third-biggest market.
In the first quarter of last year, the German group delivered 1.57 million vehicles, a third less than Toyota’s 2.41 million, which included sales at minivehicle and truck units Daihatsu Motor Co and Hino Motors Ltd.
Toyota has given no forecast for retail sales, but its latest estimate for shipments for the 2009 first quarter is 1.23 million vehicles, down 47 percent from a year earlier.