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GM Reclaims Throne as World's No. 1 Automaker While Toyota Skids

Jan. 19, 2012
The full-year 2011 sales numbers mark GM's sharp U-turn from near demise in 2008, when the global financial crisis forced it to turn to the U.S. government for a bailout.

General Motors reclaimed its title as the world's biggest automaker Thursday, successfully emerging from its 2009 bankruptcy woes to overtake Volkswagen and Toyota in the race to the top.

GM sold 9.03 million vehicles globally in 2011, up 7.6% from a year ago, as it cashed in on a recovery in a North American market that delivered a 11.4% sales jump to 2.9 million units.

The carmaker also posted strong results elsewhere, with European sales up 4.4% and 3.9% in South America.

Its best-selling marque Chevrolet posted record sales of 4.75 million units, making up almost half of the global total.

The results marked GM's sharp U-turn from near demise in 2008, when the global financial crisis forced it to turn to the U.S. government for a bailout.

Strong sales of Chevrolet vehicles such as the Cruze fueled a nearly 8% increase in GM's global sales in 2011.
In June 2009, it filed for bankruptcy, which allowed it to change labor contracts and dump brands, dealers, workers and plants in the process.

It emerged from bankruptcy much leaner and more focused, and in November returned to the stock exchange in a share offering that raised a massive $23.1 billion, helping it to pay back half of its government debt.

Reversals of Fortunes

As GM's fate began to change for the better, its Japanese rival Toyota, which had roared ahead during GM's difficult years to take top spot among the world's biggest automakers, began to see woes piling up.

In the last two years, the Japanese giant suffered the double whammy of massive vehicle recalls and then last March's devastating earthquake and tsunami in its home country.

Reputed for its well-made family sedans, Toyota's reputation took a dent in 2010 when it was forced to recall more than 9 million cars in the world over diverse technical problems, including defective braking systems.

The year 2011 brought an earthquake and tsunami in Japan that badly hindered production for several months in the archipelago and abroad.

Floods in Thailand at year-end added to its problems, as factories in its key southeast Asian manufacturing base were disrupted.

As a result, its 2011 sales fell to 7 million units, down 6%, according to provisional data released at the end of December.

If confirmed, Toyota would be relegated to third place, behind Volkswagen.

The German giant, which owns brands including Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini, has said it sold 8.15 million vehicles during the year, up 14% from 2010.

It is aiming to become the biggest automaker by 2018.

But Toyota, which also owns the luxury brand Lexus, is planning to give both its rivals a run for their money, with sales targets of 8.488 million vehicles in 2012 and 9 million by 2013.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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