America’s top-selling automaker wasn’t an American company for the first year

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  • In 2021, General Motors wasn’t the top-selling automaker in the United States for the first time in decades.
  • Toyota snatched its crown by selling around 100,000 more vehicles than its American rival.

There’s a new top-selling automaker in the United States, and it’s not based in Detroit.

General Motors lost its title as the nation’s top-selling automaker to Toyota. GM on Tuesday noted it sold 2.2 million vehicles in the United States in 2021, up from 2.55 million the previous year. Toyota, meanwhile, moved 2.3 million units in the United States last year, a jump of 10.4% compared to 2020.

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

It’s the first time a foreign automaker has claimed the top spot in U.S. sales, despite Toyota having a sizable manufacturing footprint in several states.

2021 has been anything but a typical year in the automotive sector, so it’s uncertain whether Toyota will hold onto the top spot for long. Automakers struggled throughout the year to tackle supply chain issues, including a devastating shortage of computer chips crucial to modern auto manufacturing.

Shortages of key components have forced automakers around the world to produce far fewer new cars than they would like. Cox Automotive estimates total U.S. light vehicle sales at 14.9 million for 2021, well below the 2015-2019 average of 17.3 million units.

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

GM’s fourth-quarter U.S. sales were down 43% year over year, and it entered the quarter with record inventory. The automaker had to temporarily build vehicles without certain features such as Super Cruise, its hands-free driving system. Toyota, by comparison, weathered the storm better than GM.

GM said it expects sales and share to grow in 2022 as semiconductor chip supply rebounds.

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