Toyota breaks GM's 90-year sales streak in 2021

GM has led full-year sales in the US since 1931, but it would seem that nothing is immune to the knock-on effects of the pandemic.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
2 min read
Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda
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Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda

At least Toyota is being a gracious winner.

Noriaki Mitsubishi/N-Rak Photo Agency/Toyota

Here's something you probably didn't know: General Motors has been the best-selling vehicle manufacturer in the US for full-year sales since 1931. Just think about that for a second. Now think about how salty the folks in Detroit are that Toyota just broke that 90-year winning streak.

That's right, Toyota finally dethroned the General, according to a report Tuesday by Reuters. Toyota's success came during a year marked by supply chain nightmares and semiconductor shortages that left companies like GM scrambling to build enough vehicles.

Toyota managed (according to its self-reported sales numbers for 2021) to shift 2.332 million vehicles, while GM managed a still-respectable 2.218 million. The gulf, obviously, isn't massive, but as ol' Dom Toretto famously opined, "It doesn't matter if you win by an inch or a mile, winning is winning."

GM expects to shore up its sales in 2022 based on anticipated US economic growth. Given the effect that the omicron variant of COVID-19 is having on everything else, that seems maybe a little optimistic, but time's gonna tell.

Toyota, for its part, isn't exactly waving flags, blasting air horns or shooting off Roman candles in celebration of its victory. Instead, Toyota representatives are taking the modesty route; a representative said in an emailed statement, "Toyota is grateful to our loyal customers for putting their safety and trust in Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Being No. 1 is never a focus or priority. The company's focus has always been -- and will continue to be -- on being the best brand in terms of safety and quality in customers' minds."

We also asked GM for comment but didn't hear back in time for publication.

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