GM regains crown as top-selling automaker

GM regains crown as top-selling automaker

GM regains crown as top-selling automaker

The Chevrolet Tru 140S Concept Coupe is displayed at the auto show in Detroit. AP photo

General Motors regained its title as the world’s top-selling automaker from Japanese rival Toyota Motor in 2011, but the U.S. company faces a challenge to stay on top this year as Toyota rebuilds its disaster-struck business.

GM, bouncing back from bankruptcy only less than three years ago, said on Jan. 19 it had sold 9.026 million vehicles globally last year, up 7.6 percent from 2010, with its Chevrolet brand setting a sales record of 4.76 million vehicles.

The Detroit-based automaker’s return to the top slot comes after its 2009 taxpayer-funded bankruptcy restructuring allowed it to cut costs. It also comes as Toyota’s sales fell an estimated 6 percent in 2011 to 7.9 million vehicles, hit by severe production cuts following an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan, and deadly floods in Thailand.

The Japanese automaker is ramping up production to rebuild depleted inventory and will add output capacity in emerging markets such as Brazil and China this year. But analysts said it also faced stiffer competition as rivals step up their game.

“Toyota’s biggest problem is that even without the natural disasters, its sales weren’t exactly growing,” JP Morgan auto analyst Kohei Takahashi said. “The ranking is not that important, but they need a convincing strategy to boost their sales.”

Toyota’s 2011 worldwide sales tally included listed subsidiaries Daihatsu Motors and Hino Motors and it put the carmaker just behind Volkswagen, which sold 8.16 million vehicles last year.