GM loses its place at the top of the US auto market to Toyota

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For the first time since 1931, General Motors Co. is not the best-selling automaker in the United States

The Detroit-based company lost its crown to Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp., which increased sales 10% last year despite falling 28% in the fourth quarter. With 2.3 million units sold in the United States in 2021, Toyota narrowly passed GM’s 2.2 million.

The Japanese automaker has said GM’s overselling is unlikely to be sustainable. “That’s not our goal,” said Jack Hollis, senior vice president of US sales for Toyota, in a conference call with reporters.

The change at the top reflects the volatility of a year that many automakers will be happy to leave behind. From harassed shipping lines to semiconductor shortages, the challenges of 2021 have forced manufacturers to struggle to meet demand. While industry-wide sales likely increased slightly from 2020, supply constraints shattered any hope of a rapid recovery after the onset of the pandemic crisis.

Automakers likely sold a seasonally adjusted annual rate of around 12.5 million new vehicles in December, down 23% from the previous year, according to average forecasts from six market researchers polled by Bloomberg.

The extent of the problems became clearer on Jan.4 as most of the major automakers reported sales in the United States for the fourth quarter and full year. Ford Motor Co. is expected to release its figures on Jan.5.

For the full year, auto sales likely hit 14.9 million vehicles, a 2.5% jump from the coronavirus days of 2020, according to Cox Automotive.

The year was not without bright spots. Inventory issues have helped push some buyers toward more cost-effective models with more options, as the adoption of electric vehicles has accelerated. Indeed, Tesla Inc. on January 2 beat Wall Street expectations with record quarterly global deliveries.

Other automakers will find it difficult to match this kind of performance.

GM’s sales for the year were down 13%, dragged down by a 43% drop in the last quarter. Chevy Silverado sales fell more than 30% and GMC Sierra sales fell 21% in the quarter. The auto giant was quick to blame chip-related restraints for its woes, saying they were slashing sales by 13%.

This has forced GM to be strategic about where to focus its supplies. During a dismal quarter, sales of large sport utility vehicles Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade all increased. These are the most profitable vehicles that the company sells.

Especially for investors, GM said semiconductor supplies improved towards the end of the year, and the company expects further improvements in 2022.

Toyota’s strong performance in 2021 was supported by sales of sedans such as the Corolla and Camry. While the automaker’s best-selling vehicle remained the RAV4, sales of the compact SUV actually fell 5% for the year. Sales of the Corolla and Camry increased 5% and 6.6% respectively.

While the final tally for the industry is yet to come, Toyota likely gained a point in market share in the fourth quarter, giving it 15.5% of sales and the top spot. This is the first time GM has not been No. 1 since 1931, when it beat Ford.

Much like Toyota, Honda Motor Co. managed to increase sales for the year despite falling sharply at the end. December’s tally fell 23% to 105,068 vehicles, while 2021 sales rose 8.9% to 1.47 million.

Road signs

In this special 2021 Roundabout episode, host Mike Freeze looks at how trucking has not only worked to recover from the effects of the pandemic, but also to improve in the darkest times. Listen to a sample above and get the full schedule by going to

Honda’s courageous compact crossover CR-V led deliveries, up 8.3%. The compact Civic and Accord mid-size sedans also performed well, continuing the dominance of Asian brands in the segment. Among Honda’s biggest winners are its Ridgeline pickup and Passport mid-size SUV, both of which have been redesigned for a more “rugged” look.

Hyundai Motor Co.’s namesake brand was one of the big winners last year, recording a 19% increase in sales over the previous year. The Korean automaker, however, lost momentum in the final months of 2021, with deliveries falling 15% in the fourth quarter to 152,446 vehicles. In December alone, its sales fell 23%.

Retail sales in the United States were the highest on record for the company, supported by demand for the economy Venue subcompact crossover model, which starts at under $ 20,000, as well as the sub-SUV. compact Kona and the compact Tucson SUV.

Hyundai had inventory levels on par with Toyota and other Japanese competitors, but availability plummeted at the end of the year, said Randy Parker, senior vice president of sales at Hyundai Motor America. The company has adapted by pushing dealerships to sell more cars than they already had.

“You’re getting better at online retailing and improving your pipeline’s presale,” Parker said in an interview. “That’s exactly what we did, and it helped fuel our success during a very difficult year. “

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