Toyota’s worldwide sales surged 3% last year, once again positioning the Japanese giant as the world’s top-selling automotive manufacturer. But with Toyota officials glumly anticipating a modest decline in 2015, the Japanese maker could cede leadership to its ambitious German rival Volkswagen AG.
Assign credit – or blame, if you prefer – to China. VW continues to dominate the world’s largest automotive market even while Toyota struggles to gain traction there. Japanese makers, in general, have had serious problems making headway in China, especially after tempers flared due a dispute between the two Asian nations over ownership of a chain of strategically placed islands.
At one point, rioters burned a Toyota dealership and damaged 100s of Japanese vehicles. Sales have only slowly begun to recover, but Toyota’s sales in China are still barely a third of those of the market’s top two manufacturers, Volkswagen and General Motors.