This may surprise you, but Volkswagen has become the world’s biggest car manufacturer, overtaking Toyota in the number of new vehicles sold in 2016 despite the damage it suffered in the diesel emissions scandal. Toyota had been the biggest seller for the past four years but its 2016 sales total of just under 10.2m vehicles, fell short of the more than 10.3m cars sold by VW.
General Motors is reporting its 2016 sales next week, but industry analysts said it had no chance of overtaking VW. GM was third behind VW last year and held the top spot in 2011, when Toyota’s production was disrupted by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. It marks the first time that the German manufacturer has become the global bestseller, a record it has achieved despite having being beset by scandal for rigging emissions tests for its diesel vehicles. Riding out prosecutions, fines and vehicle recalls in the US, the VW group – which includes the Audi, Porsche and Skoda brands – recorded an overall 3.8% rise from 2015.
A major contribution was booming sales growth of 12% in a year in China, where VW sells few diesel vehicles. But the figures suggest that VW’s brand has not been seriously damaged in the eyes of consumers. Toyota had put growth ahead of quality until their own scandal in 2009. Both of them had the growth bug and got into problems as a result of that. Toyota, which had to recall millions of vehicles due to safety fears over faulty accelerator pedals in 2009-10, now says it is not concerned with maintaining pole position on sales. Toyota’s domestic sales grew, but the Japanese market is small compared with the US, where its sales fell.