Toyota

Toyota has retained its status as the world’s top-selling carmaker for the fourth year running. The Japanese giant sold 10.15 million cars in 2015, beating not just expectations, but Germany’s Volkswagen and USA’s General Motors to the crown.

VW sold 9.93 million vehicles and GM did 9.8 million to complete the podium. Hyundai-Kia managed 8.01 million. Nissan, which just released figures, said sales hit a record 5.42 million units in 2015. Add in sales from French partner Renault, and the Alliance’s 8.22 million combined sales puts it in fourth.

Toyota, which sold 10.23 million cars in 2014 to top the league, wasn’t the runaway leader this year. In fact, VW had been leading the sales race in the first half of 2015 before the “dieselgate” emissions scandal derailed Wolfsburg’s bid to oust Toyota.

Toyota profited from strong North American demand, as US sales breached the 17 million mark for a new record. While Toyota is facing sluggish sales in Thailand and Indonesia, a Japanese consumption tax hike planned for next year could spark a rush in buying in 2016. Toyota is likely to keep the crown for at least another year, although a slowdown in China could hurt numbers, analysts said.

Toyota first tasted life at the top when it broke GM’s decades-long stranglehold in 2008, but lost it three years later to the Detroit firm when an earthquake-tsunami disaster struck Japan in 2011. Toyota regained top spot from GM in 2012 and has remained there since.

AFP reports that Toyota had stopped building new plants for several years, and turned its focus to quality rather than sales volume. The company is also overhauling its production methods, vowing to slash development costs to try to offset any downturn in the market and squeeze more productivity out of existing plants.

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The Japanese firm is also pushing environmentally friendly cars, especially in China where the government is struggling to contain air pollution. Toyota started producing its first mass-market hydrogen fuel-cell car, the Mirai, last year. It also rolled out an all-new Prius hybrid.

VW, which previously had ambitions to be the world’s biggest carmaker during Martin Winterkorn‘s reign, has abandoned the goal. “For me, this obsession with unit sales and the ambition to constantly reach new records makes no sense,” new chief Matthias Mueller told the weekly WirtschaftsWoche in an interview published last month. “I’m not going declare sheer size as an end in itself,” he added.