After being third behind GM and Volkswagen in 2011, Toyota regained the top spot in 2012 as the largest auto manufacturer in the world, according to a recent report. Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) and General Motors Co. (GM) have vied for the top spot for years.
The lead position will be challenged for in the next several years by several companies, including Volkswagen, as it tries to make good on its promise to become the number one company in the industry. Meanwhile, a resurgent Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) and South Korea’s Hyundai also are expanding their model lines and manufacturing facilities around the globe. In the not too distant future, five companies may be competing for the top spot as the world’s largest carmaker.
ALSO READ: The Most Dangerous Cities in America
Global vehicle production can be counted in several different ways. By cars built alone, Volkswagen actually is the number one manufacturer, Toyota is second and GM is number four. However, including light vehicles such as SUVs and pickups, Toyota is first, GM moves up to second and VW drops to third.
Some manufacturers make a great deal of their sales from heavy trucks as well. These are sold almost exclusively to businesses. Toyota produced well over a quarter million heavy trucks in 2012, pushing it further into the lead over GM, which built fewer than 8,000.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the world’s largest manufacturers based on production of cars, light trucks and heavy vehicles. This is a better measure of each company’s global footprint in the industry than just cars. Heavy trucks are a large part of sales at some of these companies and a much smaller one at others. Either way, truck production can be more profitable than car production. GM recently released its light truck models for 2015. It made it clear that the trucks were important because they are such a profitable part of GM’s line.
Auto sales in China are now a major factor for carmakers that dominate globally. America was the largest car market for decades. That has changed in the past 10 years. While car ownership per household has been relatively high in America, Europe and Japan, privately owned cars are a recent development in China. With more than 1.3 billion people, compared to just over 300 million in the United States, the potential car market in the country is huge.
ALSO READ: States Where the Most People Go Hungry
The only factor that stands in the way of rapid expansion in the People's Republic is concern about the tremendous air pollution, which exists in almost all big cities. One of the reasons GM and VW have done so well in global sales is that they are the sales leaders in the Chinese market. The other large manufacturers have begun to add more production facilities in China in the hopes they can take some of VW and GM's market share.
To identify the world’s largest automakers, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed global auto production numbers from 2012 from Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles, or OICA.
These are the world’s largest automakers.
> Vehicles produced: 2,676,226
> 1-yr. change: -5.3%
> Cars produced: 2,302,769 (10th most)
> LCV produced: 373,457 (9th most)
Renault manufactured about 2.7 million vehicles last year, down from about 2.8 million produced in 2011. The French automaker includes car and light commercial vehicle (LCV) sales only because it does not sell heavy commercial vehicles or heavy buses. Similar to several companies on this list, Renault no longer sells cars in the United States. After an unsuccessful partnership with AMC that ended in the late 1980s when it sold its 46% stake to Chrysler, Renault shifted its focus to other markets.
> Vehicles produced: 2,893,602
> 1-yr. change: +6.2%
> Cars produced: 2,483,721 (9th most)
> LCV produced: 409,881 (8th most)
Suzuki Motor Corp.’s U.S. market share was miniscule, at less than 0.5%, as of August 2012. Suzuki Motor of America filed for bankruptcy last year, blaming slow sales and poor foreign exchange rates. The company said it would stop selling vehicles in the United States. Like Renault, Suzuki makes predominantly cars and light commercial vehicles, the global production of which increased from the year before. Suzuki vehicles often are produced in India, where the company made more than 1 million cars and more than 120,000 light commercial vehicles in 2012.
> Vehicles produced: 2,911,764
> 1-yr. change: -18.7%
> Cars produced: 2,554,059 (8th most)
> LCV produced: 357,705 (10th most)
Last year, Peugeot S.A. produced slightly fewer than 3 million vehicles, including more than a million built within France, and more than 2.5 million cars. PSA’s total production has dropped considerably from 3.6 million in 2010 to 2.9 million last year. Earlier this month, however, PSA CEO Philippe Varin said that the company expected to see sales growth in Europe. Peugeot, although fairly popular in Europe, has not actively sold cars in the United States since 1991.
> Vehicles produced: 4,110,857
> 1-yr. change: +41.3%
> Cars produced: 4,078,376 (5th most)
> LCV produced: 32,481 (29th most)
Production at Japan’s third largest automaker has grown substantially over the past year. In 2011, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (HMC) manufactured roughly 2.9 million vehicles. Last year, vehicle production rose to 4.1 million. In August, Honda had an 11% share of the U.S. market. It also made the fourth, fifth and sixth most popular cars in the country that month, with the Civic, Accord and CR-V, respectively. Sales of the Civic were up by more than 58% in August, compared to the same month in 2012.
> Vehicles produced: 4,889,379
> 1-yr. change: +5.6%
> Cars produced: 3,830,954 (6th most)
> LCV produced: 1,022,974 (5th most)
ALSO READ: States Where Homebuyers Pay Cash
Nissan is the fifth largest manufacturer of light commercial vehicles, which include commercial vans like the NV Cargo, producing more than a million units last year. Nissan also manufactures heavy commercial vehicles, but last year the company sold just over 35,000 units, less than half as many as it did in 2010. Last month was Nissan's best retail month in its history of selling cars in the United States, with sales totaling 120,498.
> Vehicles produced: 5,595,483
> 1-yr. change: +1.4%
> Cars produced: 3,123,340 (7th most)
> LCV produced: 2,394,221 (2nd most)
Ford sold more than 2 million light commercial vehicles last year, which makes it the second largest LCV manufacturer in the world after General Motors. In terms of cars produced, Ford ranks seventh, with just over 3 million made in 2012. Ford had about 14.7% of the U.S. market as of August, down slightly from last year. In spite of that slight decrease, Ford said that soaring retail sales last month were the best since 2006. Ford makes a large percentage of its cars in the United States, with total domestic production exceeding 2 million vehicles last year.
> Vehicles produced: 7,126,413
> 1-yr. change: +7.7%
> Cars produced: 6,761,074 (3rd most)
> LCV produced: 279,579 (13th most)
American car sales surged last month, not just for Ford and Nissan, but for Hyundai as well. The South Korean company reported an all-time U.S. sales record in August with sales exceeding 66,000 units. In spite of increasing sales, Hyundai’s U.S. market share decreased slightly from nearly 5% in August of last year to around 4.4% last month. Hyundai manufactured the third highest number of cars in the world, with nearly 7 million units produced in 2012. The car company is one of only four top manufacturers producing heavy buses, of which 15,470 were made in 2012, the ninth most globally.
> Vehicles produced: 9,254,742
> 1-yr. change: +8.6%
> Cars produced: 8,576,964 (the most)
> LCV produced: 486,544 (7th most)
Volkswagen is Germany’s largest automaker, with more than 9 million vehicles produced last year. Further, Volkswagen was the largest producer of passenger cars in 2012, with more than 8.5 million cars made. This is the second consecutive year in which Volkswagen has been the world’s largest producer of passenger cars. However, the manufacturer fell from second in total production to third, as Toyota produced 2 million more cars in 2012 than it had the year before. The carmaker’s share of the U.S. car and light truck market has slid recently, from 2.8% in August 2012 to 2.4% in August 2013.
> Vehicles produced: 9,285,425
> 1-yr. change: +2.8%
> Cars produced: 6,608,567 (4th most)
> LCV produced: 2,658,612 (the most)
General Motors was the largest producer of light commercial vehicles in 2012, with more than 2.6 million units. This was over a quarter of a million more than Ford, the next largest producer. GM has an especially large presence in China, where it has 35,000 employees and its various operations produced more than 2.8 million cars in 2012. By comparison, the company produced just 1.9 million vehicles in the United States. Through the first eight months of this year, the company’s U.S. sales rose by nearly 10%.
> Vehicles produced: 10,104,424
> 1-yr. change: +25.5%
> Cars produced: 8,381,968 (2nd most)
> LCV produced: 1,448,107 (4th most)
Toyota was the largest auto manufacturer in the world in 2012, after it expanded production by more than 2 million vehicles between 2011 and 2012. The company ranks second behind Volkswagen in the sale of passenger cars, and behind only the three large American carmakers (GM, Ford and Chrysler) in the production of light commercial vehicles. The Japanese manufacturer also produced more than 250,000 heavy trucks, fifth most of any automaker. Toyota produced 4.4 million vehicles in Japan, and another 1.2 million in the United States last year.