General Motors Co. sold more cars and trucks in China last year than it did in the U.S. for the first time in the company’s 102-year history, The Associated Press reported.
But despite GM’s gains in China, Toyota Motor Corp. managed to hold onto the title of world’s largest automaker. The Japanese company reported 8.42 million sales worldwide last year. That’s 30,000 more than GM’s 8.39 million in global sales for 2010.
GM expects its sales growth to continue, and industry analysts say it may dethrone Toyota as the global sales leader this year. The news came the same day that GM announced it was adding a shift and workers to a plant in Flint, Mich., that makes hot-selling pickup trucks.
GM and Toyota tied for the global sales lead in 2007, ending GM’s 76-year string of dominance. Toyota took the title in 2008 and has held it ever since, but last year’s string of embarrassing safety recalls and a resurgent GM combined to make the race close again.
“General Motors is going strong, and it’s a sure sign of its re-emergence,” said Yasuaki Iwamoto, auto analyst with Okasan Securities Co. in Tokyo.
GM spokesman Tom Henderson said the company isn’t focusing on the race with Toyota.
“A financially healthy and sustainable business that benefits our customers, stakeholders and employees takes precedence over any ranking. Our motivation is to be the best global company and let the numbers speak for themselves,” he said.
GM’s global sales figure for 2010 was a dramatic 12% increase from 2009, a year in which it closed factories and was forced to take aid from the U.S. government to survive. Its sales in the U.S., including heavy-duty vehicles, rose 6.3%.
But it did even better in China, selling 2.35 million vehicles there, up 29% as an expanding middle class gained wealth, making it the world’s largest car market. The showing in China was about 136,000 more than what GM sold in the U.S. Toyota, meanwhile, sold just 846,000 vehicles in China.
GM said it achieved double-digit jumps in five of its top 10 markets last year, including China. GM marked a 12.4% sales rise in Russia and a 10.4% rise in Brazil.
Separately, GM said Monday it will add a third shift to a pickup truck assembly plant in Flint, Mich., to meet demand for heavy-duty pickups.
Pickup truck sales in the U.S. were up 16% last year to 1.6 million vehicles, and they’re still among the top-selling vehicles in the country. GM said small businesses are beginning to buy pickups again after staying out of the market for nearly two years.
The company said the expansion will generate 750 jobs for the Flint plant.