Toyota has overtaken Volkswagen to become the world’s top-selling automaker.

New sales numbers show that Toyota took the sales mantel from VW in 2020. The global slump in demand caused by the pandemic apparently hit VW harder than others. It’s the first time Toyota has been the global sales leader in more than five years.

Toyota’s group sales in 2020, which includes subsidiaries like Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino, fell 11% to 9.53 million units. Meanwhile, VW global deliveries declined by 15% to 9.31 million. Volkswagen includes brands like Audi, Porsche, Skoda, and Seat, as well as its Scania and MAN heavy truck units.

Lockdowns In Europe

The extent of the automakers’ sales losses was largely determined by their level of exposure to the regions most disrupted by the pandemic. For example, VW has a strong footprint in the European Union. Passenger car sales fell 24% there, to fewer than 10 million in 2020.

Toyota, by contrast, has a bigger presence in the United States. Light vehicle sales only fell 14.4% there. Although the U.S. has struggled to fight and contain the pandemic, they have mostly not been subject to the same lockdowns as in Europe.

Outlook For 2021 And Beyond

Prior to 2020, VW outsold Toyota in every year since 2015. However, the two companies’ 2020 results may be indicative of a longer-term trend, according to analysts. While VW is expected to temporarily surpass Toyota again in 2021, Toyota is projected to pull ahead each year through 2025, according to market research firm IHS Markit.

Although the continued spread of the virus and a global microchip shortage will persist in 2021, IHS Markit estimates that auto sales will recover steadily to 84.4 million units in 2021. That would be up from 76.8 million in 2020. Global car sales are expected to reach 94.8 million by 2025.


Devon is a writer, editor, and veteran of the online publishing world. He has a particular love for classic muscle cars.