Numbers matter to automakers, for they not only represent how their business is—or is not—doing, but can be used as a psychological weapon that’ll either help or, more often, hinder the competition. Along both lines, Toyota recently re-passed U.S. rival General Motors as numero uno in sales worldwide.
Toyota sold nearly 2.5 million vehicles globally during the first three months of 2012, followed by GM, which sold 2.28 million, with third place going to Volkswagen at 2.16 million units sold. Until last year, Toyota had enjoyed the top spot three years running from 2008 through 2010 before slipping to third place when GM sales numbered 9.03 million, VW at 8.16 million, and Toyota finished at near 8 million.
Toyota’s sales figures show the automaker well on the road to recovery after last year’s disastrous earthquake and tsunami back home, followed by horrendous typhoons over Thailand, which produces many components for the Toyota Camry and Prius. The latter heavily contributed to Toyota coffers, which saw passenger vehicles sales rise 57-percent in Japan during the first quarter in 2012 as well as 12-percent in the U.S. Says auto analyst Koji Edo, “U.S. sales are going to be the biggest cash cow for Toyota this year.”
Toyota is not spending much time in basking in its reclaimed title. The automaker announced plans earlier this week to expand its engine assembly capacity at its U.S., investing around $30 million to increase production of its four-cylinder engines. Currently, the Georgetown, Kentucky assembly plant produces engines for the Toyota Avalon, Camry and Camry Hybrid sedans; and the Venza crossover. Toyota’s investment will add around 80 new jobs, good news as high unemployment continues across the U.S. Says Wil James, president of the plant, “This is great news for our team members and our company. This project is the result of the strong partnerships we have locally and across the state, which will help grow our business and strengthen the communities where we do business.”
The Kentucky plant is the latest Toyota facility revamping to meet the automaker’s increasing investments in the U.S. which can be attributed to the rising yen. Toyota also invested additional millions in its Indiana and West Virginia plants as well as in Ontario, Canada.