World’s Largest Automakers: Alliance And Toyota Neck-And-Neck, Volkswagen 3rd – Forbes

(c) Bertel Schmitt

Alliance and Toyota separated by a hair

This time of the year, it usually is pretty clear who will be the world’s largest automaker once the year ends. This time it’s different: All we know is that last year’s winner Volkswagen will most likely drop to place 3. The race for the top spot is between the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance and Toyota, and it could go either way.

January through August, the Alliance and Toyota are separated by less than a rounding error, and anything can happen in the remaining months. However, with 8.3% growth year-on-year, the trajectory of the Alliance is a bit steeper than Toyota’s. A few weeks ago, Alliance Chairman Carlos Ghosn said he expects his group to end the year with 10.5 million units, and my spreadsheet says the same. Quite a few people on the planet never heard of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, but this year, it could become the world’s largest automaker.

Volkswagen’s big problem is its biggest market China. Car sales in China aren’t growing as much as they used to.  In the first eight months of the year, the Chinese auto market grew 4.3% compared with the same period of last year. China’s passenger-car sales, which dominate Volkswagen Group’s line-up, expanded only 2.2% during the January to August period. Volkswagen underperformed all that, with its China sales up only 0.7% January through August.

Both the Alliance and Toyota are much less exposed to the sudden Chinese headwinds, which should increase their chances to stay ahead Volkswagen Group.

Note: This analysis attempts to track production, not sales, because this is how the world automaker umbrella organization OICA ranks automakers. Due to the different methodologies of their measurement, “sales” numbers have proven to be unreliable, and prone to ‘sales reporting abuses,” as recent scandals in the U.S., along with rampant “self-registrations” in the EU have shown.

At the same time, data reported by automakers are becoming increasing hard to compare.

Toyota reports production only. Volkswagen reports “deliveries” to wholesale – which is, at least for this exercise, close enough to production. The Alliance numbers are a blend of production data reported by Nissan and Mitsubishi, and deliveries reported by Renault.

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