Toyota not only lost top spot for the first six months of this year but the disruption to its production from the earthquake and tsunami saw sales slip by 23 per cent and it trailed the Volkswagen Group into third place globally.
GM sales grew by 8.9 per cent to 4.536 million vehicles, ahead of 4.13 million VW products and 3.71 million vehicles wearing a Toyota bade, Lexus, Daihatsu or Hino badge. The strength of the yen is also affecting profits for the Japanese-based carmakers. Nissan this week announced it was aiming to reduce exports to try and limit the impact of the currency.
The Wall Street Journal noted Nissan plans to maintain a target of one million cars for the year but is aiming to sell 600,000 of them domestically. That contrasts with local sales of 460,000 for the year ended March 31 (the Japanese financial year).
Nissan has the highest export exposure of any of the Japanese carmakers, the WSJ reports, with 60 per cent of its Japanese-built products exported in the first six months of the year. Toyota shipped 56 per cent of its locally built vehicles overseas at the same time, while Honda and Suzuki export 37 per cent and 28 per cent of production respectively.
The news is better for the Germans where Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz had record first half results.
BMW led the pack with 18 per cent growth to 833,366 vehicles from Audi on 652,970 and Benz on 610,931. Beemers growth has been led by demand for the new 5 Series and X3 models, largely in Asia, a market where long wheelbase vehicles such as Audis A6L and A8L are popular prestige models.
The growing global acceptance of Hyundai and Kia products pushed the automotive group into fifth place in the sales charts. The South Korean duo sold 3.19 million vehicles in the first six months of 2011 to post a record growth rate of 15.9 per cent.
The popularity of models such as the Sonata, good price and quality competitiveness and sharp improvements in brand image contributed to better sales," a Hyundai Motor Group spokesperson said in a press release.