General Motors Co. recouped its title as the World?s leading automaker from Toyota Motors Corp in the first half of this fiscal year, outselling its Japanese stalemate by more than 800,000 units as the companies declared their six-month performances.
GM?s sales climbed 8.9% in the first half of 2011 to 4.536 units, with Volkswagen coming in second with reported sales of 4.13 units and Toyota falling to third place with a modest 3.17 million units sold.
The switch in the ranks of the top automakers delivers yet another blow to Toyota, days after it declared a 99% plunge in its quarterly net profit, with its stocks opening to a feverish response yesterday signaling pessimism among investors. The auto-giant continues to struggle to minimize losses from production stoppages that resulted on its Japanese manufacturing sites in the aftermath of the deadly March earthquake and tsunami, reportedly causing half-year production at Toyota City to tumble 23%.
Even as the resilient Japanese car-maker plans to move into the recovery phase a month earlier than expected, additionally raising its annual profit forecast by 39% to 390 billion yen in an effort to project a positive comeback, analysts remain skeptical about Toyota?s ability to overcome its pitfall as soon as it expects to.
The dubiousness is fuelled by what is being termed a ?simple logistics problem? as Toyota is expected to suffer time lags in delivering its vehicles to the dealerships that require them, regardless of a production recovery, further foreshadowing any expectations of the automaker even surpassing Volkswagen in sales in the remaining half of the year.
Another challenge that poses a threat to Toyota?s comeback-plan is the escalating value of the Japanese yen against a slumping dollar that further squeezes profits as domestic production becomes more expensive, particularly for overseas trade.
While Toyota may consider losing its top-rank another setback in its own fortunes, perhaps reclaiming the title comes as optimistic relief to the US-based GM on its own path to recovery from near-bankruptcy in 2009, as it perseveres in its struggle against spiraling fuel prices, sluggish auto sales and an ever-more sluggish economy.
The progress further adds momentum to the ambitious annual sales forecasts of the owner of the cash-crunching Chevrolet brand, as it announced an increase in its production targets for the first full-year of its electric hybrid models Chevy Volt and Opel Ampera (a German model of the Volt) in May.