The global semiconductor crisis was a key part of GM’s downfall .
Japanese automaker Toyota finished as the leader in US car sales in 2021, according to figures released Tuesday, surpassing General Motors for the first time and as semiconductor shortages hit the auto industry.
The change on the podium comes after a year of shortages of crucial chips on the assembly lines , which translated into sharp drops in sales in the fourth quarter for both companies.
However, Toyota increased its annual sales in the United States by 10.4% to 2.3 million units, while General Motors fell 12.9% to 2.2 million.
Toyota also posted small annual gains on its two best-selling sedans, the Camry and Corolla, and a modest drop in sales of its Rav4 compact SUV. The Highlander SUV also increased its sales in 2021.
GM , which relies more on the truck market than Toyota , had a 10.8% annual drop in its Silverado pickup trucks and a 6.4% drop in its GMC truck lineup.
90 years with the crown
The American manufacturer had held the crown as the number one in car sales in the US since 1931, when it overtook Ford, according to trade publication Automotive News.
Charlie Chesbrough, a senior economist at Cox Automotive, noted that GM’s lack of emphasis on sedans has cost it market share and estimates that Toyota may also have benefited from a smaller dealer network compared to GM , Ford and Stellantis, which owns the Chrysler brands.
“As a result, sales may have been down (for GM and company) because buyers couldn’t find the product they were looking for.”
While GM has acknowledged that low car inventories are a problem, CEO Mary Barra and other executives have touted strong vehicle prices, which allow it to remain profitable even when sales decline.
“High vehicle use and lagged sales mean pent-up demand for new vehicles in the millions and counting. That pent-up demand will support sales as vehicle supply improves,” anticipated Elaine Buckberg, GM’s chief economist .
Jessica Caldwell, executive director of data analysis for the specialty company Edmunds, believes that the podium may change.
“This is a remarkable feat for Toyota , but it is not likely to be a sign of change in the long term – GM has the advantage that it has more brands and products for consumers to choose from.”
In a statement, Toyota estimated that it will invest 3 billion dollars in the United States to develop electric vehicles .
Among other companies reporting annual sales in the US for 2021, Honda had an increase of 8.9% to 1.5 million vehicles, and Hyundai increased 19% to 738,081 cars.