GM reclaims US auto sales crown from Toyota

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Jan 4 (Reuters) – General Motors Co (GM.N) retook the top spot in U.S. auto sales from rival Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) in 2022 as it could better meet strong demand for cars and trucks despite industry-wide supply disruptions.

Shares of GM rose 2.7% to $34.75 Wednesday afternoon after the company posted a 2.5% increase to 2,274,088 vehicles in 2022, surpassing Toyota’s 2,108,458 units, in a closely watched race.

Inventory shortages due to rising material costs and an ongoing chip crisis had hampered production at many automakers, keeping car and truck prices high. Asian brands were hit the hardest.

“Toyota is still one of the tightest when it comes to inventory,” said Cox Automotive senior economist Charlie Chesbrough.

The Japanese automaker lowered its full-year production target in November. Sales of its SUVs, a key segment, fell 8.6% in 2022, data from Wednesday showed.

However, Toyota executives said some positive signs were emerging and stock building was slow but steady.

“We are optimistic that our inventory levels will continue to improve in the first quarter and throughout the year,” said Andrew Gillel, senior vice president of automotive operations at Toyota.

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Other brands such as Hyundai Motor America, Kia Motors America, Mazda North American Operations and American Honda all posted sales declines on Wednesday.

New vehicle sales in the US ended at 1.26 million units in December, with annual sales of 13.31 million, according to data from Wards Intelligence.

Analysts are concerned that price hikes by automakers to ease inflationary pressures and rising interest rates will take a toll on new vehicle sales in 2023.

Affordability is a “very real problem,” said Toyota chief executive David Christ. Nevertheless, the company expects demand to be strong this year.

Automakers will have to start incentivizing buyers, a trend that has stalled during the pandemic, according to auto marketplace TrueCar.

Reporting by Aishwarya Nair, Nathan Gomes and Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru; Edited by Shilpi Majumdar and Devika Syamnath

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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