Volkswagen, with an estimated 2011 sales tally of around 8.1 million vehicles globally (up 13 percent over 2010), is likely to earn top billing as the largest automaker in the world. General Motors, which was in the sales lead through the first half of 2011, ought to move around 7.55 million machines (an eight-percent increase) to hold on to second place while Toyota's estimated 7.27 million sales (a nine-percent falloff) would only be good enough for third in the global race for sales dominance.
There are a number of reasons Toyota has seen its sales flounder in 2011 – most notably the disastrous earthquake and tsunami in the first quarter of the year that halted production of many of its popular models, but also due in part to lingering aftereffects of its recall-ridden history over the past few years. Company CEO Akio Toyoda has vowed to address all of these concerns.
Analysts are split on predictions for 2012, with some suggesting VW will have enough momentum to hang on to its number one spot and others believing Toyota will rebound to reclaim first place in global sales. Success in emerging markets like China and India will likely be the deciding factor in sales supremacy, both in 2012 and in the years to follow.