Japanese automaker Toyota overtook General Motors in 2021 as the top car seller in the U.S., breaking the American manufacturer’s 90-year streak, Reuters reported.
Toyota sold 2.332 million vehicles, while GM sold 2.218 million, automakers said Tuesday, Reuters reported. GM’s dethroning marks the first time the Detroit company did not secure the most sales since it overtook Ford in 1931.
GM‘s sales were down 13% from the year before, in part due to the computer chip shortage that forced manufacturers to focus on their most popular models, Reuters reported. In contrast, Toyota was up 10% and is believed to have weathered the shortage better than others in the industry.
“The semiconductor shortage, among other things, created an unprecedented set of circumstances in 2021,” GM said, CNN reported. “Even so, GM extended its lead in full-size pickups and SUVs. And 2022 begins with a gradually improving supply chain, and that should lead to growth in 2022 as we launch several new vehicles — including EVs and redesigned pickups.”
While Toyota Senior Vice President Jack Hollis said the manufacturer is “grateful” for the loyalty of its customers, he emphasized that “being No. 1 is never a focus or priority,” Reuters reported.
Toyota is not necessarily expected to maintain its lead, with Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry insights at Edmunds, arguing “It’s not like GM is doing something magical all these years. They just have more channels to sell in and more brands,” CNN reported.
The impact of the continued chip shortage will determine whether the Japanese manufacturer beats the American automakers in 2022, Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Cox Automotive, told CNN.
“The chips are still the wild card for this year,” she said, noting that the limited supply of vehicles cut into GM’s advantage of selling more of its cars in fleet sales to businesses, such as rental car companies, at a typically lower retail price for consumers.
The trajectory of electric vehicles in the automotive industry could also benefit GM, which has bet on the industry transitioning to clean energy in the future, Caldwell told CNN. “If EVs and autonomous vehicles are the future, GM is setting themselves up quite well,” she said.