It didn’t take long after General Motors proclaimed itself as 2011’s “world’s largest automaker” for some protest to arise. Selling approximately 9,025,942 units, GM finished well ahead of Volkswagen AG, which has claimed 8.16 million units. So is somebody just bad at math, or is there more to it than meets the eye? Of course, it’s the latter.
VW’s beef with GM falls squarely on the company’s international ops sales, which includes sales of its Chinese affiliate SAIC/Wuling, which accounted for 1.2 million sales alone. The issue here is that GM does not have a controlling stake in Wuling, and VW therefore does not count them. China’s communist investment rules automatically restrict foreign automakers to a maximum 50 percent stake in their Chinese joint ventures that they must organize with if they wish to do business in the country.
Additionally, ze Germans have yet to factor in the sales of Scania and MAN, its commercial truck companies. The addition is expected to add an estimated 200,000 units to Das Auto’s bottom line. So, according to VW’s math, GM now rests at 7.83 million units sold globally, while it finishes with around 8.36 million units. Checkmate? Believe it or not, the final say isn’t exactly up to either automaker.
The final count will be decided by the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, which according to the group’s website, “represents the automobile industry at the international level, in particular with intergovernmental and international bodies,” among other things. Realistically, however, OICA (not sure where the “C” or “A” comes from) tends to simply list off whatever numbers the automakers provide upfront. Therefore, the numbers would remain as they are, with GM squarely being the global sales champ of 2011.
Lastly, GM spokesman Jim Cain explained to The Wall Street Journal that “Our goal is to be the best, not necessarily the biggest. If we had announced plans on world domination, we probably would have been quibbling with the sales of our competitors and that’s as far removed from focusing on the customers as you can get.”
So is General Motors really the sales king of 2011? It all depends on how you interpret it.