Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Volkswagen Steals Toyota's Crown as World's Largest Automaker

"2009 Volkswagen New Beetle"

The people want an empire, apparently, with that unassuming little black VW bug at the head of it.

The U.K.’s Guardian explains, "Volkswagen-Porsche has overtaken Toyota to become the world's largest car manufacturer as the German group benefits from state-backed stimulus packages around the globe." VW has "produced 4.4 million vehicles so far this year, outstripping its Japanese rival which has seen four million cars roll off production lines since January."

Ironically, VW reached the milestone in part by taking over Porsche – which it was forced to do after Porsche failed in an attempt to take over VW earlier this year.

"Of course," Autoblog notes, there is "some number play involved" in the Guardian’s numbers. "We're talking about the combined entity VW-Porsche, which has built 4.4 million cars to date, which is roughly 400,000 beyond Toyota's mark. However, Toyota halved its production earlier this year and shut down all its plants in February." VW also "benefited much more than Toyota from the European cash-for-clunkers programs," though Toyota saw more sales than VW spurred by the U.S. version of the car-swap program.

The news doesn’t just push Toyota down a notch. Jalopnik notes that VW has "passed Toyota and GM at the top of the heap." America’s largest automaker – the world’s largest just three years ago – now sits in third globally.

The change may not be permanent. The Guardian notes that Toyota "has the capacity to make 10 million vehicles a year but it expects to make seven million vehicles in 2009" as production picks back up. VW, however, may see its production increase long-term enough to stay ahead, or at least to take the title again even if it loses it later this year.