Many have criticized the tactics used by Japanese automakers, namely Toyota (NYSE:TM), which has been taking advantage of Japan’s sliding yen and dropping the prices on their vehicles stateside to push out a greater volume of cars. Excessive discounting can be damaging to a brand in the long run, but for what it’s worth, its been working in the short term, as Toyota has clinched the title of world’s top-selling automaker for the second consecutive year.
Toyota beat out the second-place finisher, General Motors (NYSE:GM), by about 270,000 vehicles and is looking to sell at least 10 million units for the coming year. For 2013, Toyota moved 9.98 million vehicles worldwide, up 2 percent from the previous year, and within spitting distance of its eight-digit goal.
General Motors sold 9.71 million cars and trucks globally last year, besting Volkswagen AG (VLKAY.PK), which fell to 9.5 million after a disappointing year in the United States.
Toyota’s feat also illustrates how resilient the company has become and how effectively it has reversed the setbacks it experienced from the enormous tsunami that crippled its supplier network and production capabilities, and laid to waste a good portion of northeastern Japan. Toyota regained the sales crown from General Motors in 2012; GM had been, for decades, the largest automaker by volume until Toyota surpassed it in 2008.
Perhaps with a touch of irony, it was Japan that posed a large issue for Toyota, with stagnant sales figures. Toyota’s growth was largely attributed to its overseas markets. The U.S. was a particular sweet spot, as Toyota moved 2.24 million vehicles for a 7 percent gain from the year prior; China sales were up 9 percent, to 917,000.
Toyota retained a humble attitude toward its title, reaffirming some comments it has made in previous years that it is merely making one car at a time to appeal to global consumers. Though General Motors took on a similar tone, the Detroit News points out that the leading spot is a valuable morale booster for the company and its employees, and that the “healthy results at the three rivals” are indicative of the overall momentum of growth in the auto industry.