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VW Overtakes Toyota: Dr. Piech Quest

Volkswagen logoShockingly, it appears as if Volkswagen has overtaken Toyota as the world’s largest carmaker, producing 4.4 million vehicles so far this year to the Japanese giant’s 4 million units. This must have the good Dr. Ferdinand PiГ«ch, chairman of the VW supervisory board, cackling with glee, because VW insiders have often stated their aim of being World Number 1 by 2018. Looks like Christmas came early.

Or did it? Most pundits argue that VW’s leap into the top spot was partially down to scrappage schemes in the U.K. and Germany and because the Chinese government cut taxes and introduced subsidies to get the new-car market moving. VW is traditionally much stronger than Toyota in its home market and outsold Toyota almost two to one in China in 2008 - 983,436  vehicles against 543,100 - so these schemes were obviously a boon to the German automaker, the dominant player in these markets.

But another factor was the near panic that gripped Toyota after it announced its first-ever annual financial loss earlier this year. That caused the Japanese manufacturer to halve its output in the first quarter of the year, from 2.1 million cars to 1.1 million. Those government incentives meant that VW didn’t have to reduce production as dramatically.

One aspect of VW’s master plan that does seem to be working in its favor is its brand strategy, spreading the same component sets across brands as diverse as SEAT, Е koda, VW, and Audi, as well as between Audi, Bentley, and Lamborghini. Now that Porsche is in the fold, VW Group has ambitious plans to expand the sports-car maker’s reach and volumes. Toyota, by contrast, is weak in the luxury market outside of the U.S.

However, we have to say that this state of affairs is likely to be fleeting. If the U.S. market bounces back, Toyota will gain sales relative to VW (which is weak here, but planning to increase sales), while the removal of government subsidies in Europe and China might undermine its position there and force the kind of production cuts Toyota has already implemented.

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VW Overtakes Toyota: Dr. Piech Quest
VW Overtakes Toyota: Dr. Piech Quest

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Volkswagen Coverage Quote on VW

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