Toyota’s signature achievement for 2021 isn’t outselling General Motors for the first time ever in total light vehicles.
That’s kind of a big deal statistically, but in 2021, it can be chalked up to COVID-19 and the computer chip shortage. Those factors forced GM to run short of new-vehicle inventory faster than Toyota, which weathered the chip shortage better.
Rather, Toyota is most proud of the fact that it’s No.1 in retail sales for 2021, not counting fleet sales, says Jack Hollis, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor North America. Toyota’s lead in total light-vehicle sales in 2021 is “unsustainable,” he says.
“We don’t focus on No.1 in total sales, but we do in retail,” Hollis (pictured, below left) says in a Jan. 4 phone interview. “Every year our goal is to be the best at selling the vehicles one by one.”
In fact, Toyota has been No.1 in U.S. retail volume for the past 10 years in a row, Hollis says. “Our focus is so much more about our relationship with our dealers. The manufacturer can only do so much,” he says.
According to Wards Intelligence, total light-vehicle sales for 2021 were 14.93 million units, up 3.1% from 14.47 million in 2020.
Toyota Motor North America’s light-vehicle total for 2021 was 2,332,262, up 9.1% vs. 2020, including Toyota and Lexus. GM’s light-vehicle total, including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC, was 2,037,623 for the year, down 8.0% from 2020.
Toyota Motor’s U.S. sales were up every quarter in 2021 until the fourth quarter, when its total sales fell 28.2%. In contrast, GM’s U.S. sales slipped 33.1% in the third quarter of 2021, and fell 43.1% in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Hollis says Toyota’s fleet sales consistently account for about 8% to 10% of U.S. sales volume.
Fleet share for GM North America is probably more like 15%, according to the automaker’s third-quarter report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the latest available. Year to date through the third quarter, GM reports fleet sales of 319,000 units for GM North America. That’s about 15.5% of GM North America total sales volume.