GM is no longer the king of the hill; Toyota tops US car sales for the first time
General Motors is no longer the king of the hill. Japanese automaker Toyota topped auto sales in the United States for the first time in 2021, Automotive News reported. The change to the top of the rankings came after a year in which assembly lines were plagued by a shortage of critical computer chips, leading to a sharp decline in fourth-quarter sales for both companies.
Nonetheless, the figures show that Toyota’s annual sales in the United States rose 10.4% to 2.3 million, while General Motors suffered a decline of 12.9% to 2.2 million.
Toyota posted small annual gains for its two top-selling sedans, the Camry and Corolla, and modest sales declines for its Rav4 compact SUV. Its full-size Highlander SUV recorded higher sales in 2021.
GM, which relies more on trucks than Toyota, saw a 10.8% annual decline in its Silverado pickup trucks and a 6.4% decline in its GMC truck lineup. GM has held the crown as the number one auto-selling company in the United States since 1931, when it supplanted Ford, according to Automotive News.
In a stock shortage market, Toyota has benefited from a smaller dealer network compared to GM, Ford and Stellantis, which owns the Chrysler brands.
Private estimates predicted 2021 U.S. sales of 14.9 million, up 2.5% from 2020 levels but well below the five-year average. Consultants reported high demand but anemic stocks, saying “demand is healthy but … you can’t sell what you don’t have.”
One of the iconic supply chain issues of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the semiconductor shortage.
Analysts cited outsized demand for electronics as a factor, but automakers have also seen component supply affected by plant closures in Asia due to COVID lockdowns or fires at manufacturing sites.
Sales reports from other companies: Honda saw an 8.9% increase in US sales in 2021 to 1.5 million vehicles, and Hyundai took a 19% increase to 738,081 cars.
While GM has recognized low car inventories as a problem, chief executive Mary Barra and other executives have touted high vehicle prices, which has kept it profitable even as sales plummet.