Last year was rough for Toyota. Like businesses and individuals across Japan, the company suffered devastating setbacks following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Later in 2011, there were production problems due to immense flooding in Thailand. And of course, Toyota continued to fight customer perceptions of iffy car quality following 2010's high-profile recall campaign.
But now, there's good news for Toyota fans: yesterday, the automaker released sales figures for the first half of 2012, and once again, Toyota is officially the world's best-selling car company.
From January through June, Toyota sold a tidy 4.97 million vehicles around the globe. That put the company 300,000 units ahead of General Motors, which finished in second-place with 4.67 vehicles sold.
Close on GM's heels was Volkswagen, which moved 4.52 million cars during the first six months of the year. That's particularly impressive, given how entrenched VW is in the flagging European market (which, as we saw yesterday, is really putting a damper on auto sales). When Europe gets over its current financial slump, VW could be well positioned to achieve its goal of becoming the world's largest automaker by 2018.
What's especially interesting about Toyota's dominance of the global auto market is that the company has just three auto brands under its belt: Lexus, Toyota, and Scion*. Compared to General Motors (which owns four brands in the U.S., plus Opel, Vauxhall, Holden, and others elsewhere) and Volkswagen (which has nine), Toyota is a pint-sized player -- at least where product differentiation is concerned.
Toyota, Lexus, and Scion owners: we'd love to hear from you. What drew you to the Toyota family? Do you think it offers an ample variety of products? Do you think the Prius should or could be the basis for a new Toyota marque? Drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.
* Toyota does own a controlling interest in Daihatsu, and there have been rumors of Toyota spinning off Prius into its own brand -- rumors that Toyota has consistently denied.