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GM Regains Top Automaker Title

National

General Motors was the world's top auto manufacturer in 2022. | Image by The Motley Fool.

General Motors is again the world’s largest automaker, taking the title back from Toyota.

The news comes as the U.S. auto sales industry is set to report its worst annual sales in over a decade, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In a year marked by a supply-chain crisis, factory shutdowns, and low inventory, GM was one of the few companies to see an increase in sales in 2022.

GM and Toyota have gone back and forth, trading the title as the world’s largest automaker in recent years.

One of GM’s largest plants is in Arlington. More than 5,600 employees work at the manufacturing site, producing SUVs. Those include the Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV, GMC Yukon, Yukon XL, Chevrolet Suburban and Chevrolet Tahoe for worldwide distribution.

Industry analysts were projecting U.S. auto sales to be a total of 13.7 million vehicles in 2022, which would be the lowest figure in more than a decade, according to the WSJ. For perspective, sales before the pandemic were north of 17 million vehicles for five years.

Honda posted one of the largest declines of any automaker in 2022, with sales plummeting 33%. Only Honda’s own Acura and GM’s Buick fared worse. Honda was outsold by Tesla and failed to surpass 1 million vehicles sold for the first time in 1997.

Many top executives across the industry expressed encouragement by solid sales in the fourth quarter but now fear that the industry is shifting from a supply problem to a demand problem, due to a worsening economic outlook, according to the WSJ.

Rising interest rates will undoubtedly impact the industry in the upcoming year.

“It’s going to make things a lot more challenging in 2023,” Hyundai U.S. CEO Randy Parker said.

The chip shortage certainly played a role in less production, forcing Toyota to abandon its sales projection of 16 million in 2022 after shutting down factories and slowing production.

However, Toyota’s North American sales chief, Jack Hollis, said it is not all doom and gloom, with signs that shortages and the price of raw materials are both coming down. Toyota is expecting to sell 15 million vehicles in 2023, according to the WSJ.

Nissan sales dropped 25% in 2022 but saw a decrease of just 2% in the fourth quarter after semiconductors became more available, prompting some encouragement.

“It has definitely improved,” said Judy Wheeler, a VP at Nissan North America. “I’m hoping it won’t be an issue as we move forward.”

The semiconductor shortage was a key talking industry talking point across the industry in 2022, creating pent-up demand that saw the average price paid for vehicles in December at a whopping $46,382, according to CNBC.

Strong pricing helped sustain automakers in 2022 despite lower sales volume, said the WSJ.

Tesla was another automaker that missed its sales projections last year due to COVID-related shutdowns at its Shanghai factory. Tesla sold a record 1.3 million cars in 2022 but fell short of Elon Musk’s projection of a 50% increase year-over-year for his auto company. Tesla sold 936,000 cars in 2021. Electric Vehicle sales made up 6% of the U.S. market in 2022, up from 3% in the prior year, according to J.D. Power.

Rising costs of raw materials used in lithium-ion batteries have increased electric vehicle prices, forcing GM to cut its EV sales target for 2023.

New car sales are forecasted at 14.8 million in sales in 2023, according to Edmunds.

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