GM is world's largest automaker once more

Posted on January 20, 2012

It’s official. General Motors is again the world’s largest automaker with global sales of 9.03 million vehicles in 2011.

That was 11% higher than Volkswagen, which last week reported 2011 global sales of 8.16 million.

Toyota, which held the symbolic title from 2008 through 2010, has not yet reported its final 2011 sales, but last month, the Japanese automaker estimated it sold 7.9 million vehicles globally last year.

Toyota’s sales were constrained by production cuts caused by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan, and later in the year by flooding in Thailand.

GM’s 2011 sales rose 7.6% from 2011. GM’s two largest markets in 2011 were China, where sales, with the help of joint venture partners, rose 8.3% to 2,547,203 vehicles, and the U.S., where GM sold 2,503,820 vehicles, up 13.0% from 2010.

Chevrolet led the way in the U.S. with sales of 1,775,812 vehicles, up more than 13%.

Chevrolet’s sales in China reached a record of 595,068, up 9.5% from the previous year.

Last week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, GM CEO Dan Akerson downplayed the importance of global sales leadership.

“I like profitability more than I do market share,” Akerson said. “I don’t think we’ve set the goal to be the largest manufacturer in the world. I think the lead is going to trade off.”

Some analysts have said that VW is the world’s biggest automaker because GM’s figures include vehicles made by its Wuling joint venture in China.

Many don’t count Wuling because GM doesn’t have controlling interest in the company. GM will report its earnings for the fourth quarter and all of 2011 in mid-February.

GM shares rose 31 cents to close at $24.82, $8.18 below the $33 of its November 2010 initial public offering.