DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- It finally happened: Toyota Motor Corp. has unseated General Motors Corp. as the world's biggest automaker. GM said today it sold 8.36 million new cars and trucks globally last year compared with Toyota's earlier reported 8.97 million units worldwide in 2008.
GM's 70-year-plus rein as the worldwide titan has been closely watched by the automotive press for more than a year as the automaker has faltered. Its image, along with Chrysler's, took a beating during congressional hearings late in 2008 regarding the companies' requests for federal bridge loans.
Of course, GM's market-share lead came at a cost: The automaker hasn't been profitable since 2004, and it recently told Congress it will slash advertising and promotions by $600 million by 2012 in order to win approval for its first $4 billion loan installment.
GM President Fritz Henderson recently told Advertising Age sibling Automotive News that keeping the title of world's biggest carmaker wasn't "terribly important" to him; it's more important that GM is financially sound.
GM made some hay early this month when it announced its 2008 U.S. sales: It outsold Toyota Motor Sales USA with 2.98 million new cars and trucks, some 60,000 more than Toyota. But worldwide sales are a different story.
When asked how the problems of Detroit's three automakers were affecting Toyota, Bob Carter, group VP-general manager of the Toyota Division in the U.S., told Advertising Age, "It's in everybody's best interest to have a strong, vibrant industry." He said all auto marketers in the U.S. are feeling the slowdown in sales. "Toyota is not immune to any economic cycles."
Word of the shift wasn't a big deal to Peter DeLorenzo, founder of the Autoextremist.com blog, who wrote today, "It was inevitable, as Toyota has been on a relentless surge since 2000. But is it news? Not so much, as GM has mentally been the No. 2 car company in the world for quite some time now."