Wuling Sunshine (above): The difference-maker?

CNNMoney.com is reporting that Toyota may have already surpassed General Motors as the #1 automaker in terms of global sales... for 2006. Automotive News has released its annual sales totals, which put GM 128,000 units behind Toyota for last year. Until now, it was widely assumed that GM had retained its #1 spot.

The discrepancy can be traced back to China, where sales of a Wuling "breadbox" microvan were discounted from the GM total by Automotive News. The manufacturer, SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co., is 51% owned by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. Automotive News credits sales to the majority owner of a given subsidiary, and as a result, the Wuling sales go to SAIC, not GM, and that is enough to give Toyota the top spot. The Detroit Free Press did an informative piece on the Wuling vans and the role they play in the rapidly-growing Chinese market for GM back in April.

According to CNNMoney, GM declined comment on the Automotive News report other than to confirm that it did internally count the sales AN excluded when it published its ranking yesterday. The complete CNNMoney report can be found here, and the Automotive News article can be found here (subscription required).

While the apparent flip-flop in rankings will likely have little to no effect on how anyone involved does business, it's got to irk folks at GM, even though Rick Wagoner and others are on record as saying that retaining the top spot is not a priority. #1 is #1, though. We're sure there'll be more on this in the coming days.

Thanks to Peter for the tip!

[Sources: CNN Money, Automotive News]


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