Toyota Motor Corp. said global sales climbed 2.8 percent in the first nine months of this year as the carmaker battles Volkswagen AG for leadership.
Worldwide deliveries for Toyota, including its Hino Motors Ltd. and Daihatsu Motor Co. units, climbed to 7.6 million vehicles through September, a company spokesperson said. Volkswagen reported a 5.3 percent gain in sales to 7.4 million vehicles, excluding results for its two heavy-truck units.
The tight race between global giants is playing out as automakers, their customers and regulators contend with mounting recalls and rising scrutiny over the safety of vehicles. The industry-wide struggle with defective cars poses risk to both Toyota and Volkswagen, which are benefiting from increasing demand in the China and U.S. markets.
“It’s a fantastic race, with their strengths coming in different parts of the world,” James Chao, a Shanghai-based director at IHS Automotive, said by phone. “You see the U.S. coming back quite strongly for Toyota, and then you see the great engine of growth for Volkswagen being China, which is continuing to perform.”
President Akio Toyoda told shareholders the company was “advancing into uncharted territory” in the annual report the Toyota City, Japan-based carmaker released last month. Toyoda, 58, noted the unprecedented milestone of selling more than 10 million vehicles worldwide last year, a mark both his company and Volkswagen are on pace to exceed again in 2014.
The industry is selling record numbers of vehicles globally as crises involving auto safety swirl. Air bags made by Takata Corp. are linked to at least four deaths and more than 30 injuries in the U.S. after the safety devices deployed with too much force, spraying metal shrapnel at occupants. U.S. authorities have begun an investigation and almost 8 million cars made by 10 automakers have been recalled to fix the hazard.
In the U.S., General Motors Co. (GM), the No. 3 automaker by worldwide deliveries, faces death claims that could rise into next year involving defective ignition switches. The Detroit-based company has confirmed 29 fatalities tied to the flaw, which it failed to fix after more than a decade.
Even with those concerns, GM sales rose 2 percent to 7.37 million vehicles during the year’s first nine months. The biggest U.S. automaker last week reported third-quarter profit that beat estimates as North American customers flocked to pickups and sport-utility vehicles and recall expenses ebbed.