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The best-selling automaker in the US wasn’t an American company for the first year ever

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma.

Toyota

  • In 2021, General Motors wasn’t the best-selling automaker in the US for the first time in decades. 
  • Toyota snatched its crown by selling around 100,000 more vehicles than its US rival. 
  • It’s the first time that a foreign automaker has been the top-selling car company in the US. 

There’s a new best-selling automaker in the US and it isn’t based in Detroit. 

General Motors has lost its title as the country’s top-selling carmaker to Toyota. GM on Tuesday said it sold 2.2 million vehicles in the US in 2021, down from 2.55 million the previous year. Toyota, meanwhile, moved 2.3 million units in the US last year, a 10.4% jump over 2020. 

The numbers mark the end of a 90-year winning streak for GM, which has led US auto sales every year since 1931. Before that, Ford was the dominant US automaker.

It’s the first time year that a foreign automaker has claimed the top sales spot in the US, though Toyota has a significant manufacturing footprint in several states. 

2021 was anything but a typical year in the car business, so it’s not a certainty that Toyota will hold the lead for long. Automakers struggled throughout the year to combat supply-chain issues, including a devastating shortage of computer chips crucial to modern car manufacturing.

Shortages of key components have forced carmakers across the globe to produce far fewer new cars than they’d like. Cox Automotive estimates total US light vehicle sales at 14.9 million for 2021, far below the 17.3-million-unit average recorded from 2015 to 2019.

But the supply-chain snafus have hit some manufacturers harder than others. 

GM’s fourth-quarter US sales were down 43% year-over-year, and it entered that quarter with record-low inventories. The automaker had to temporarily build vehicles without certain features like Super Cruise, its hands-free-driving system. Toyota, by comparison, managed to weather the storm better than GM. 

GM said it expects its sales and share to grow in 2022 as the supply of semiconductor chips rebounds. 

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