How Did Toyota Steal the Top Spot Over General Motors?

Toyota is one of the most popular automakers in the world, and now, the Japanese giant is also the most popular automaker in America. That’s some shocking news as General Motors has dominated the American market for decades, and GM has been able to hold off other automotive titans until now. Here’s a look at how Toyota took the top spot over General Motors in the American auto market. 

General Motors’ decades of dominance

A Tundra pickup truck parked outside of a Toyota dealership in San Jose, California
A Tundra pickup truck parked outside of a Toyota dealership | Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In the early days of the American auto industry, it didn’t take long before it became clear which companies would dominate. Ford created the famous Model T, which was popular mainly because it was a very affordable car at the time. However, General Motors soon dethroned Ford from the top of the American auto industry.

According to NBC News, that happened in 1931, and GM managed to stay ahead of Ford and its other competitors for decades. General Motors was able to do that for many reasons. Obviously, GM kept making good cars that people wanted to buy. For example, cars such as the Chevy Camaro and the Cadillac Escalade have become iconic in American culture.

However, General Motors was also innovative in other ways, such as how cars were bought. In fact, the idea of paying for a car with monthly installments came from GM. Undoubtedly, that helped make GM cars more affordable to the average person. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for General Motors. During the Great Recession, GM and other automakers faced a terrible economic situation, and GM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. Additionally, GM’s troubles didn’t stop there, though.

How Toyota took GM’s throne 

Toyota certainly made some headway against General Motors during those days, but Toyota only overtook GM in sales in 2021. The main reason was supply chain issues, primarily due to the ongoing chip shortage. These issues affected pretty much every automaker, including GM and Toyota. However, according to NBC News, Toyota has managed to handle the supply chain issues better than GM has.

That being said, it was a close fight between the two automotive giants. While Toyota was affected by the chip shortage, the Japanese automaker was nonetheless able to sell 2.3 million cars in the U.S. in 2021. That represents a 10.4% increase from Toyota’s sales in 2020. In comparison, General Motors sold 2.2 million vehicles in America in 2021, a 12.9% drop from 2020. 

In total, Toyota sold 114,034 more cars than General Motors did in the year. However, looking forward, the chip shortage may get better in 2022. If that happens, GM can probably pump up its numbers and potentially retake its title. However, Toyota may stay around as number one for a while longer.

Can Toyota keep this up in 2022?

One of the new additions to Toyota’s lineup for the 2022 model year is the Corolla Cross. It’s a compact SUV, a very popular segment in the U.S. On top of that, it also has name recognition, as the Corolla is already one of the most popular sedans on the market. As such, the Toyota Corolla Cross is poised to do pretty well in America.

Another big update to Toyota’s lineup is happening with the Tundra. Toyota is finally introducing a brand-new generation of this full-size truck, and it’s a significant improvement over the aging Tundra from last year. Not only that, but America also loves pickup trucks, so this brand-new Tundra should do well in terms of sales. Additionally, more changes are coming in 2022 for Toyota, and it seems like Toyota has a good chance of remaining at the top for now.

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