Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda bows in apology during a press conference Tuesday over the group companies’ quality scandals. (Getty Images)
Every quarter, the stock market hangs on how much sales growth Tesla and other startups have experienced. There’s growth, but then there’s sheer output, and when it comes to deliveries dominance, one company can’t be touched. Toyota on Tuesday announced that it remained the world’s top-selling automaker for the fourth year running, with record sales of 11.2 million vehicles in 2023.
Toyota’s global group sales jumped 7.2% last year; the numbers include sales at Daihatsu and truck unit Hino Motors. Toyota’s parent-only vehicles, which include the Toyota and Lexus brands, hit a record of 10.3 million vehicles in 2023.
Gasoline-electric hybrids made up about a third of those. Battery electric vehicles accounted for less than 1%.
Toyota’s annual output handily beat runner-up Volkswagen Group, which this month reported a 12% rise in deliveries last year to 9.2 million cars. That growth was driven largely by demand for Audi, which sold 1.9 million vehicles.
The auto industry in 2023 enjoyed a post-pandemic recovery as supply chain bottlenecks eased, though shipping problems through the Red Sea so far this year have stalled that progress by some automakers, causing some car plants in Europe to suspend production.
Toyota’s global group sales have now topped 10 million vehicles for nine of the past 10 years, except for 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic delivered a blow to the auto sector.
Scandals and an apology
Toyota’s chairman apologized on Tuesday for scandals at the three group companies. Daihatsu, Hino and affiliate Toyota Industries have been beset by governance issues involving certification test procedures for cars and engines that could potentially hurt the brand’s global reputation for quality and safety.
“I would like to express my deepest apologies to our customers and stakeholders for the inconvenience and concern caused by the successive irregularities at Hino Motors, Daihatsu and Toyota Industries,” Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda told reporters. He was speaking at an event to announce a vision for the Toyota group, which was founded by his great-grandfather and now includes 17 companies.
Toyota risks a slowdown in the group’s sales momentum after Daihatsu last month suspended shipments of all its cars after a safety scandal investigation found issues involving 64 models, including almost two dozen sold under Toyota’s brand.
One of the five attitudes laid out for employees to focus on was: “Be honest and make things in a right way.”
The company said the event, originally planned for Feb. 14, the birthday of its late founder Sakichi Toyoda, was brought forward in light of recent irregularities at Toyota’s group companies.
Daihatsu said on Tuesday its global production slumped 25% to 121,000 vehicles in December and its worldwide sales were down about 8% that month. Japan’s transport ministry lifted a ban on shipments of 10 Daihatsu-made cars earlier in the day.
On Monday, Toyota disclosed it was suspending shipments of some Toyota models including the Hilux truck and Land Cruiser 300 SUV after an independent panel uncovered wrongdoing in tests for diesel engines developed by supplier Toyota Industries.
In 2022, another committee tasked with investigating an emissions scandal at Hino Motors found the truck unit had falsified engine emissions data going back to 2003.