US auto market: Toyota overtakes General Motors

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Persistent chip shortages and problems in supply chains slowed US auto sales towards the end of the year. The largest US manufacturer General Motors (GM) suffered a particularly severe slump and for the first time in 90 years lost its position as the top-selling provider in its home market. With around 2.3 million cars sold in the full year of 2021, Toyota sold around 114,000 more new vehicles to US customers than GM, thus gaining market leadership.

According to its own information, GM had to cope with a sales decline of 43 percent in the final quarter. Overall, the group sold around 2.2 million cars in the USA in 2021, 13 percent fewer than in the previous year. Toyota came to terms with the chip crisis much better and increased its US sales in 2021 by about ten percent year-on-year. According to data from the US trade magazine Automotive News, it is the first time since 1931 that another manufacturer has sold more cars in the US than GM in a calendar year.

Of the German automakers, only BMW has so far presented results for the fourth quarter and the full year. They increased sales of their core brand on the US market by almost 21 percent to 336,644 new vehicles in 2021. In the last three months of the year, however, there was a nearly six percent drop in sales. The BMW brand Mini posted a sales increase of 6.4 percent in the entire past year despite a minus of eight percent in the last quarter.

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Not all manufacturers have published their figures yet. Ford, for example, wants to do this on Wednesday, Volkswagen on Friday. What is certain is that many automakers struggled on the US market last year. The industry is hoping for a quick end to the chip crisis, which is severely hampering business despite good demand. However, experts believe that the problems could well last a little longer. “Sales should only accelerate in the second half of 2022,” says Chris Hopson from the analysis house IHS Markit.

But with Tesla there is also a winner of the crisis year 2021. While the competition groaned under bottlenecks in the chip supply, the electric car company increased its worldwide sales by 87 percent compared to the previous year. Overall, the group delivered a good 936,000 cars – the growth is impressive, but the absolute number compared to established rivals such as Toyota, Volkswagen, GM or Ford is still low. But Tesla is catching up, and not just in the US market.


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