Toyota Beats GM in U.S. Sales; GM Had Led Every Year Since 1931
- Toyota and General Motors announced their 2021 U.S. sales numbers today, and Toyota’s 2,332,262 in sales beat GM’s 2,218,228, the first time since 1931 that GM had not been on top in full-year sales.
- GM saw a 13 percent sales decline in 2021, including a 43 percent drop in the fourth quarter alone. Toyota posted a 10 percent sales increase for the full year.
- A GM spokesperson quoted by Reuters said he does not believe this change in sales leadership will be permanent: “I wouldn’t rush out if I were [Toyota] and get a ‘We’re No. 1’ tattoo,” he said.
For the first time in almost a century, a non-domestic automaker has taken the number one sales spot in the U.S. General Motors has been the best-selling company since 1931, but after 90 years at the top, it has been dethroned by Toyota.
Toyota announced today it sold a little over 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. in 2021, which is just over 10 percent more than it sold in 2020. That beats the 2.2 million vehicles GM announced today that it sold in 2021, a drop of 13 percent. Ford hasn’t yet reported its full 2021 sales figures, but as of the end of November, the automaker had sold just over 1.7 million vehicles, leaving it too far behind Toyota to stop the historic change.
Analysts may debate the reasons for Toyota’s ascendancy, but one main factor is the production stoppages due to the COVID-19 pandemic and supply-chain problems in the auto industry, particularly when it comes to semiconductor chips. Toyota was able to keep its production lines running smoother than both Ford and GM, which helped the company produce and sell more vehicles.
Toyota’s top seller, the RAV4 crossover, was down 5 percent compared with 2020, but other big-selling models including the Camry, Corolla, Highlander, and Tacoma were all up over last year. GM saw declines for both the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, and its own competitor to the RAV4, the Chevy Equinox, was down 39 percent compared with 2020. For reference, GM sold a total of 2.55 million vehicles in 2020, while Toyota sold 2.11 million and Ford sold just over 2 million.
“Toyota is grateful to our loyal customers for putting their safety and trust in Toyota and Lexus vehicles,” a Toyota spokesperson said in a statement to Car and Driver. “Being number one is never a focus or priority. The company’s focus has always been—and will continue to be—on being the best brand in terms of safety and quality in customers’ minds.”
A GM spokesperson told Reuters that during the chip shortage, the company focused on profitability instead of volume and that 2021 was still a strong sales year in the United States for GM’s full-size SUVs and pickups. “I wouldn’t rush out if I were (Toyota), and get a ‘We’re No. 1’ tattoo,” GM spokesman Jim Cain told Reuters.
Toyota is also highlighting its sales of electrified vehicles, claiming to be a leader in this segment for the 22nd consecutive year. Of course, Toyota lumps three powertrain types into this category—hybrids, plug-in-hybrids, and the hydrogen fuel-cell–powered Mirai—and said sales of these vehicles were up 73 percent in 2021, to 583,697 units. Toyota doesn’t currently sell an all-electric vehicle in the U.S., but that will change when the bZ4x goes on sale later this year. For 2021, electrified vehicles made up one quarter of Toyota’s total U.S. sales.