FORGET Dieselgate. Volkswagen Group has overtaken Toyota to become the world’s largest carmaker in 2016, despite the costly hangover associated with the emissions scandal rocking the company.
Toyota, which has topped the sales chart for the past four years, has officially reported it sold 10.175 million vehicles globally last year. However, Volkswagen Group announced overnight it had sold 10.31 million vehicles worldwide.
The difference between the two brands was down to growth: Toyota increased its sales by just 0.2 percent in 2016, while Volkswagen’s sales grew 3.8 percent.
Volkswagen’s success was not in Europe, its home market, which was hit hard by admissions from the carmaker in 2015 that it had cheated on emissions tests for some diesel and petrol engines. Instead, most of its growth came from China, where demand for other brands owned by VW – namely Porsche and Audi – drove sales.
Toyota’s success came via its vehicles built outside of Japan. The brand posted its fifth consecutive year of production growth, hitting a record high as production in North America, Latin America, and Europe ramped up.
Volkswagen Group chief executive Matthias Mueller said 2016 was a “very challenging year for us”.
“We made strides in resolving and overcoming the diesel crisis and ... we managed to stabilise operating business in difficult conditions,” he said.
“The fact that we handed over more than 10 million vehicles to customers last year bolsters the group and its brands as we head for the future."
General Motors, the third-largest carmaker in 2015, is expected to release its global sales numbers next week.
Toyota continued its reign as Australia’s dominant brand, selling 209,610 vehicles in 2016, up by 1.6 percent over 2015’s result, with the Hilux trade ute becoming the nation’s best-selling vehicle for the first time.
In contrast, Volkswagen’s sales here slumped 6.1 percent to 56,571 as Dieselgate-affected models such as the Golf small car and Amarok ute fell out of favour with buyers.