Volkswagen bumps Toyota from top car spot; now number one

On the strength of US sales, Volkswagen overtakes Toyota as the world’s biggest auto manufacturer. Toyota has felt the impact of the burgeoning Takata airbag implosion.

A few centuries back, when kings were still the people in charge, when the old ruler cashed in his chips and a new one came on board, they used to declare: “Le Roi est mort. Vive le roi!” Well, in the automotive world they have been shouting that since yesterday. For the first time in more than half-a-decade, Toyota is no longer the world’s number one car company. Volkswagen, which has been chasing hard for this particular accolade, took over the position with an announcement yesterday.

Though it wasn’t by much, VW bumped Toyota out of the leading spot in car sales through the second quarter of this year, said yesterday. For the first half of this year, Volkswagen has sold 5.04 million vehicles worldwide, while Toyota total sales have slipped to 5.02 million. Granted, it is only 200,000 cars, but in the world of cars, where bragging rights are important, it still means a great deal.

Overall, Toyota and its subsidiary Daihatsu, found their sales were off 1.5 percent. Though production increased in the United States, the hike has been absorbed by sales. Toyota is one of 11 major automakers whose products have been strongly impacted by the ever-expanding Takata airbag inflator crisis. To date, more than 50 million vehicles worldwide have been impacted by the record-breaking recall. So far, eight deaths have been attributed to the problem where Takata-made inflators burst on airbag deployment, sending shrapnel-like shards of metal scything through passenger compartment. More than 100 injuries have also been attributed to the issue. Observers expect these number to grow.

Volkswagen, whose sales director Christian Klinger has warned of weakening market conditions in China, one of the automaker’s biggest markets, has seen its sales fall four percent. Russian sales are also off. The sales dip has been more than offset by a six percent rise in the US market. The increase has been enough to give VW first place. VW owns the popular Audi and Porsche brands.

Until 2008, General Motors was the largest automaker. Through the first half of this year, the automaker was in third place with 4.6 million vehicle sales.

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