Thu | Nov 15, 2018

Dispute over top car seller

Published:Thursday | January 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM
The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta on display at the International Auto Show on January 14, 2018.

German automaker Volkswagen had record sales of 10.74 million vehicles last year, but rival Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi is disputing the title of world's largest carmaker.

Volkswagen's sales rose 4.3 per cent from 10.30 million in 2016, when the company passed Japan's Toyota to become the globe's largest auto producer for that year.

The figures show the Wolfsburg-based company continuing its effort to move past a scandal that broke in September 2015 over cars it had rigged to cheat on diesel emissions tests. Sales last year were boosted by a strong December, when sales rose 8.5 per cent. For the year, the company saw big jumps in Russia and Brazil, and significant gains in China and the United States.

"We are thankful for the trust of our customers," CEO Matthias Mueller said in a statement.

However, Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, told a committee of the French National Assembly that his group was the world's biggest with 10.6 million vehicles last year, the French business publication Les Echos reported. Ghosn said that 200,000 of Volkswagen's vehicles were trucks that should not count.

Toyota estimated in December that it sold 10.35 million vehicles last year. Final figures are expected around the end of January or the beginning of February.

None of the companies sets a goal to be the world's largest automaker, though Ghosn was quoted as saying it was "a satisfaction".

Within the European market, car sales topped the 15-million mark for the first time in a decade in 2017, the fourth straight year of higher registrations, the association of European carmakers said Wednesday.

Registrations of new cars were up 3.4 per cent from 14.6 million in 2016, said the ACEA. That brings sales to the highest level since before a record-long six-year slump started in 2007. Volkswagen remained the No. 1 automaker in the European market, increasing a modest 2.3 per cent to 3.5 million vehicles even while the nameplate Volkswagen brand and luxury Audi marquee contracted slightly.

Toyota sales were up 12 per cent, but the Japanese carmaker, which is one of the top-sellers globally, still hasn't hit its one-time goal of 5 per cent European market share, falling shy at 4.6 per cent.