General Motors is no longer King of the Hill. Japanese carmaker Toyota led United States automobile sales for the first time in 2021 indicated Automotive News. The shift at the top of the rankings came after a year in which assembly lines were plagued by a scarcity of crucial computer chips, resulting in steep fourth-quarter sales declines for both companies.
Nevertheless figures show Toyota annual sales in the US grew by 10.4% to 2.3 million, while General Motors suffered a 12.9% drop to 2.2 million.
Toyota, saw small annual gains for two top-selling sedans, the Camry and the Corolla, and a modest dip in sales of its Rav4 compact SUV. Its full-sized Highlander SUV scored higher sales in 2021.
GM, which relies more heavily on trucks than Toyota, saw an annual 10.8% drop in its Silverado pickup trucks and a 6.4% fall in its GMC truck line. GM has held the crown as the number-one company in U.S. auto sales since 1931, when it supplanted Ford, according to Automotive News.
In a market starved of inventory, Toyota benefited from a smaller dealer network compared with GM, Ford and Stellantis, which owns the Chrysler brands.
Private estimates have projected 2021 U.S. sales of 14.9 million, up 2.5% from the 2020 level but much below the five-year average. Consultants have pointed to strong demand but anemic inventories, saying demand is healthy but... you can't sell what you don't have.
A shortage in semiconductors has been one of the emblematic supply chain problems of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Analysts have cited outsized demand for electronics as a factor, but automakers have also seen supplies of the component affected by closures at factories in Asia due to COVID lockdowns or fires at manufacturing sites.
Sales reports from other companies: Honda scored an 8.9% rise in U.S. sales in 2021 to 1.5 million vehicles, and Hyundai won a 19% increase to 738,081 autos.
While GM has acknowledged that low car inventories are a problem, Chief Executive Mary Barra and other executives have touted strong vehicle pricing, which has enabled it to remain profitable even as sales sag.