GM reclaims U.S. auto sales crown from Toyota

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

GM shares rose 2.7% in Wednesday afternoon trading to $34.75, after the company posted a 2.5% increase in 2022 sales to 2,274,088 vehicles, more than Toyota’s 2,108,458 units, in a closely watched run.

Inventory shortages resulting from soaring material costs and a lingering chip crunch had hampered production at many automakers, keeping car and truck prices high. Asian brands were the most affected.

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

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

However, Toyota executives said positive signs were emerging and the rate of inventory accumulation was slow but steady.

“We are optimistic that our inventory levels will continue to improve in the first quarter and for the remainder of 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 saw lower sales on Wednesday.

Industry-wide, U.S. auto sales last year are expected to be around 13.9 million units, down 8% from 2021 and 20% from the peak of 2016, according to industry consultant Cox Automotive.

Some analysts also worry that price hikes by automakers to ease inflationary pressures and rising interest rates will weigh on new vehicle sales in 2023.

Affordability is a “very real issue,” said Toyota executive David Christ. Nonetheless, the company expects demand to be robust this year.

Automakers will need to start enticing buyers, a trend that has been halted during the pandemic, auto market TrueCar said.

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

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