General Motors, Toyota in virtual dead heat in global sales in 2007

Detroit-based GM has held the title of world's largest automaker since 1931.

toyota 88 224 (photo credit: AP)
toyota 88 224
(photo credit: AP)
DETROIT - General Motors Corp. has lost the sole claim it held for 76 years as the world's auto sales leader, as totals for 2007 released Wednesday showed the company in a virtual tie with Toyota Motor Corp. GM said it sold 9,369,524 vehicles worldwide last year, up 3 percent from 2006. Earlier this month, Toyota reported global sales of 9.37 million vehicles. The Japanese automaker said Wednesday it would not release more precise numbers. "The race is too close to call," Mike DiGiovanni, GM's executive director of global market and industry analysis, said during a conference call Wednesday. "I don't think anybody knows at this point." Detroit-based GM has held the title of world's largest automaker since 1931, but Toyota's strong growth in the United States and GM's US sales decline helped Toyota move closer to the top spot in recent years. Toyota's share of the US market has more than doubled since 1990, when it controlled only 7.5% with just over 1 million in sales, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank. Its sales have grown briskly in recent years, sometimes by double-digit percentages, as people bought its smaller, fuel-efficient cars with a reputation for reliability. By 2007, Toyota controlled 16.3% of the US market, selling 2.6 million vehicles. GM, while still the US sales leader, has seen its US market share drop dramatically since 1990, when it controlled about 35% by selling nearly 5 million vehicles. Last year GM's share was roughly 23.8%, with sales of 3.8 million vehicles. Globally, GM said it did well in 2007, reporting the second-best sales total in its 100-year history. For a third straight year and the fourth time ever, GM sold more than 9 million vehicles worldwide last year. The company said it set a sales record in China last year, selling just over a million vehicles, and doubled its sales in Russia to a record 258,000. It also set a record in Brazil, where it sold nearly 500,000 cars and trucks, the company said. The title in coming years likely will be decided by sales in burgeoning markets such as China, Russia, South America and other regions with a growing middle class. Mature markets in North America and Europe, meanwhile, are likely to post slower growth, analysts say, and Japan's auto market is shrinking.