Toyota defended its title as the world’s best-selling automaker in 2023 for the fourth year in a row but remains on the defensive after a series of scandals involving its subsidiary companies in Japan.
The car manufacturer saw sales rise 7.2% over 2022 across its brands, delivering a total of 11.23 million units. Sales to overseas customers reached an all-time high, growing 4.1% annually to hit 8.93 million units. Toyota attributed the growth to strong demand in Europe and North America, in addition to the rising popularity of hybrid models. Hybrid and fully electrified vehicles accounted for 36% of sales across Toyota and Lexus. Both brands saw a combined increase of 7.7% year-over-year to 10.31 million units, representing the strongest sales year on record.
However, while the automaker has much to celebrate, it is also mired in controversy following serious allegations of falsifying safety records at two Toyota-owned subsidiaries: Daihatsu and Hino Motors. The two companies make products primarily for the Japanese market, with the former designing small cars and the latter producing trucks, although some offerings are sold internationally. In April 2023, Daihatsu confirmed that it had manipulated side-impact safety results for thousands of vehicles by swapping airbag control units during testing. Successive investigations concluded the same had occurred at multiple Toyota companies, affecting models sold both domestically and overseas.
Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda expressed regret that the scandal had disrupted the company’s business operations. “I would like to express my deepest apologies to our customers and stakeholders for the inconvenience caused by the successive irregularities at Hino Motors, Daihatsu, and Toyota Industries,” he commented, speaking to reporters at a recent event announcement.
Despite the controversies, Toyota is entering 2024 with impressive momentum, driven by the rapid recovery of its manufacturing operations following the COVID pandemic. However, although it has retained its spot as the world’s biggest automaker, it will need to maintain a strong pace in the coming years to remain ahead of the competition. The brand was far from being the only one to report impressive sales in 2023.