Toyota stays top-selling automaker for fourth year as VW retreats

TOKYO (Bloomberg) — Toyota Motor Corp. stayed the world’s top-selling automaker for the fourth straight year and was the only company to deliver more than 10 million vehicles in 2015 as Volkswagen Group fell back amid its emissions scandal.

Global sales for Toyota, including its Hino Motors and Daihatsu Motor units, fell 0.8 percent to 10.15 million vehicles last year, according to a company statement. Volkswagen earlier this month reported a 2 percent drop to 9.9 million including its MAN and Scania heavy truck brands, while General Motors Co.’s deliveries rose 0.2 percent to 9.8 million.

Toyota’s result caps a year in which Volkswagen led its Japanese rival through the first six months, only to relinquish the top spot amid an unprecedented crisis.

Already dealing with slumping sales in China, Volkswagen’s emissions scandal has forced it to halt sales of diesels in some markets and scramble to repair 11 million vehicles. The German company also has to mend its reputation and rethink the goal of surpassing Toyota, a key objective under former CEO Martin Winterkorn, who resigned in the wake of revelations the company had employed defeat devices to cheat on exhaust tests.

“Toyota’s hegemony will probably not be challenged for the next few years after the big setback for VW,” Zhou Jincheng, a Nagoya-based analyst at researcher Fourin Inc., said by phone. “The gap will only get wider and wider because VW will take time to adjust its strategies for markets such as the U.S. and Europe.”

To make it five wins in a row, Toyota is considering a move that could improve its position in emerging markets. The automaker may buy the rest of its 51 percent-owned Daihatsu unit, giving it full control over the leading maker of minicars for Japan and compact cars in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Toyota also is introducing its first redesigned Prius compact in almost seven years. The carmaker boosted the fuel economy of its top-selling hybrid and has outfitted the model with driver-assist features like automatic emergency braking.

Although Volkswagen’s European recall is due to begin this month, the company has yet to agree to a fix with regulators in the U.S., where it’s been forced to halt sales of diesel models. The automaker has so far set aside 6.7 billion euros ($7.3 billion) for repairs to engines that were rigged to pass emissions tests, and it faces hundreds of lawsuits and fines from regulators.


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