Toyota Bests GM in Global First-Quarter Sales

By Brendan Moore


General Motors and Toyota continued their fight for sales bragging rights last quarter and Toyota came out the victor for the quarter, selling 159,000 vehicles more than GM worldwide. Most of the gain was attributed to developing markets, where both companies have a very strong presence. Both companies have experienced sales losses recently in the declining, but still largest, U.S. market.

Toyota sent 2.41 million vehicles across various curbs in various parts of the world last quarter, a gain of 2.7% from 1st quarter 2007. General Motors sales fell 0.6% to 2.25 million units on a global basis.

This is a repeat of 2007, when Toyota beat GM in the first quarter. However, Toyota lost to GM in annual sales in 2007 by approximately 3100 units.

“We are clearly in a more challenging market,” said Mike DiGiovanni, GM’s sales analyst, on a conference call earlier today. DiGiovanni stated that the automaker’s gains outside of North America weren’t enough to overcome first-quarter losses of 11% in the U.S., which now accounts for 36 percent of GM’s sales, a drop from 40 percent a year earlier.

While GM was losing 11% in the quarter compared to 2007 in the U.S., Toyota lost only 5.5%, and that was enough to pull them ahead for the quarter.

Many auto industry analysts are predicting that 2008 will be a very tough year for auto manufacturers in the United States. The most pessimistic of those analysts are forecasting the worst year for sales since 1993.

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at

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  1. I think GM will again take the 12-month contest because I think Toyota is going to experience greater weakness in the U.S. sales. GM is just as strong as Toyota worldwide; it’s the U.S. market that’s dragging down their results and I think GM going to look better in U.S. sales as the year unfolds. Just my opinion.

  2. I agree about the bounce-back from GM later in the year.

    From the New York Times today:

    G.M. joined several other automakers Wednesday in predicting that the auto industry’s worst months were still ahead. It said overall sales in the second quarter were shaping up to be lower than expected.

    “The big caveat is gas prices,” G.M.’s chief sales analyst, Michael C. DiGiovanni, said. “This is clearly a headwind we didn’t anticipate would be to this level.”

    Mr. DiGiovanni said G.M. had raised its forecast for oil prices twice, though he did not reveal what range the company now anticipates. Crude oil for June delivery was trading at more than $117 a barrel Wednesday morning in New York, and the average price of regular gas has reached a record high of $3.533 a gallon, according to the AAA motor club.

    Still, he said that G.M. remained upbeat about the latter part of the year, when it and other automakers believe a recovery could begin. Chrysler is among those that have since backed away from that prediction.

    “The fundamentals are in place for a second-half recovery,” Mr. DiGiovanni said. “We’re starting to see the positive signs that we thought we would see.”

    I know it’s not what most people think, but I’m thinking that GM will pick up steam in the United States market and Toyota will lose a little as the year goes on. I think Toyota just doesn’t have anything fresh to entice people and consumers are getting pretty bored with the Camry and the Corolla.

  3. I both agree with jcf and loosey-goosey. GM will rebound for the 12-month contest and also GM might have some hidden aces (Pontiac G8) to play at the right moment.

    However, I won’t be surprised to see Toyota dumping more Camrys, Corollas to the rental fleet market(Avis, Hertz, National, Entreprise,etc…) in the upcoming months.

    And on a little off-topic mention. A bit ironic to see the “green” Toyota and Honda having more CUV/SUV and pick-up. I’m a bit tempted to compare them with Michael Moore who was featured in the documentary “Manufacturing Dissent” but that’s another story 😉

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