Toyota Overtakes GM as Top U.S. Automaker

For the first time in nearly a century, General Motors won’t be able to claim the title of “America’s top automaker.”

Instead, that designation — for this year, anyway — will belong to a Japanese company.

Automakers are reporting their December and full-year sales totals for the U.S. market, and General Motors’ more than 2.2 million vehicles sold in 2021 trailed the more than 2.3 million reported by Toyota. The last company to outsell GM in the U.S. was Ford — in 1930.

GM outsold Toyota by more than 400,000 vehicles in 2020, but the Detroit auto giant saw its sales drop 13% last year and slide 43% in the fourth quarter. Toyota, by contrast, reported a 10% increase in U.S. sales in 2021 to take the top spot.

Industry analysts pointed to a lingering shortage of semiconductors that has particularly affected the auto industry. GM was forced to alter production and focus on more profitable vehicles to compensate for the lack of chips. Toyota was forced to cut production, as well, but it weathered the initial crisis better than its rivals.

According to observers and the companies themselves, however, Toyota might not hold the top spot for long. Pent-up consumer demand is expected to result in strong sales numbers in 2022, and GM says its sales will improve alongside the supply of semiconductors.

Toyota, meanwhile, declined to spike the proverbial football. Senior Vice President Jack Hollis told Reuters although the company is “grateful … being no. 1 is never a focus or priority."

If it’s not, it turns out they’re pretty good at it anyway: Toyota led all other companies in worldwide sales in 2020, and it’s poised to retain that title when 2021 numbers become available later this month.

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