Its official: GM is no longer the world’s largest automobile manufacturer. Toyota sold 4.8 m vehicles in the first half of 2008, while GM managed to move 4.54m. Higher U.S. gas prices have “put an enormous amount of pressure” on GM’s truck sales, said Erich Merkle, an automotive consultant with accounting and consulting firm Crowe Chizek and Co LLC. “That is equating to lower sales for GM and causing them to now fall behind Toyota.” GM and Toyota were roughly even in 2007 for the top spot among the world’s automakers, with GM slightly ahead if sales from a China business were included.
GM’s sales in North America fell to 963,929 vehicles in the second quarter from 1.2 million, hurt by the slow U.S. economy and labor disruptions in the U.S. market, the company said. Sales in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East rose 17.7 percent, while sales in its Asia-Pacific region grew 14.6 percent, GM said. Sales rose 2.5 percent in Europe. Mike DiGiovanni, GM’s chief sales analyst, said most of the industry’s sales increase is expected to be in the so-called BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China.” Certainly the biggest risk is the U.S. economic downturn and potential spill-over effects on the global economy,” he said.