Toyota first bested GM in the second quarter, and repeated the feat three months later as the chip crisis bit hard into both automakers' output. However, Toyota's global production footprint — it was expected to finish as the world's largest automaker in 2021 for the second consecutive year, again besting German rival Volkswagen Group — and North American plants helped it to keep ahead of GM in the U.S.
"Toyota is grateful to our loyal customers for putting their safety and trust in Toyota and Lexus vehicles," Jack Hollis, senior VP of automotive operations for Toyota Motor North America, said in a statement. "Being No. 1 is never a focus or priority. The company's focus has always been being the best brand in terms of safety, quality and value in customers' minds.
"And as part of our continuous improvement philosophy, we are always finding better ways of doing things, and ultimately, make better products customers love and trust."
Toyota Motor North America, which continues to report sales on a monthly basis, finished December down 30% at 174,115 vehicles. The Toyota brand was down 29% in December to 150,072, while Lexus was down 37% at 24,043 vehicles.
GM reports its U.S. sales quarterly. In the fourth quarter, its sales were down 43% to 440,745. Chevrolet sales declined 45% to 288,647, GMC sales declined 38% to 100,919, Buick sales declined 35% to 28,789 and Cadillac sales declined 48%to 22,385.
Larry P. Vellequette is a reporter for Automotive News. Hannah Lutz contributed to this report.