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Volkswagen Group is closing in on Toyota as the global leader in vehicle sales, with a rapid expansion drive in China while Toyota curbs growth to focus on shoring up quality, Automotive News said this week. Toyota, worldwide leader both in 2012 and 2013, gains 4% over the first half of 2014 to reach a record 5.097 million vehicle sales, however Volkswagen is closing the gap with the Japanese manufacturer: the German automaker is up 6% to 5.066 million units. As a reminder, Toyota includes the Toyota brand, Lexus, Scion, Daihatsu and Hino while the Volkswagen group’s brands include Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, MAN, Porsche, Scania, Seat and Skoda. In third position, General Motors, which Toyota overtook two years ago, said it sold 4.92 million vehicles in January-June.
According to Automotive News, even if Toyota manages to retain its crown for the first half, its position looks less secure for the full year. And this even though Toyota has shown impressive growth in the US whereas Volkswagen kept skidding. However the US is not the focal point of worldwide automotive sales, China and South-East Asia are. And at this game Volkswagen is doing much better than Toyota. In China, Volkswagen and GM’s largest market, Volkswagen is up 18% to more than 1.8 million sales, topping both GM’s 11% increase to 1.73 million and Toyota’s 12% gain to 0.466 million units. Volkswagen, which sold 3.27 million vehicles in China in 2013, is planning to invest $24.4 billion from now until 2018 in new plants and products there, while Toyota has put a freeze on the building of new plants until about 2016 as the company focuses on building better cars rather than chasing sales volume.
Toyota and Volkswagen both have forecast more than 10 million deliveries for 2014 (whereas Volkswagen had originally anticipated to reach that milestone in 2018). Toyota sold 9.98 million vehicles last year to lead the industry for the second consecutive year, followed by Volkswagen’s 9.73 million and GM’s 9.71 million. Introductions of crucial revamped models by Toyota and Volkswagen will help determine which automaker finishes the year on top. But if Volkswagen could overtake Toyota to become the #1 manufacturer in the world for the first time in 2014, the Japanese carmaker is still the king of profits.
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