GM no longer #1, despite Obama’s campaign-trail claims

Ryan Lovelace Contributor
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General Motors is no longer the number one automaker in the world, as President Obama has been touting on the campaign trail.

GM spokesman Jim Cain told The Daily Caller via email GM sold 4.67 million automobiles through the first six months of 2012, which is 300,000 vehicles behind the 4.97 million automobiles Toyota sold during the same time frame according to the Associated Press.

“We were the largest automaker in 2011,” Cain said. “This year, Toyota has sold more vehicles CYTD (calendar year-to-date) as they continue to recover from [the] earthquake and tsunami.”

Such information puts a damper on President Obama’s ability to take credit for reviving GM with a bailout in 2009.

“Today, the American auto industry is back,” Obama said on February 15 in a speech in Milwaukee, Wis., “And General Motors is once again the number-one automaker in the world.”

As Election Day nears, Obama has repeatedly promoted GM’s status as number one with growing frequency on the campaign trail.

“When some folks said let’s let Detroit go bankrupt, we said no… and now GM is back at number one,” Obama said at a July 6 campaign event.

Cain said GM still is the top automaker in the U.S., but exactly how far GM is behind Toyota globally could be worse than the numbers show.

A Toyota spokeswoman declined to comment on how Toyota’s sales compare to GM, but TheDC has learned GM padded its sales figures with more than 93,000 Chinese auto sales in June while trying to retain its title as the world’s number one automaker.

GM is a minority owner of SAIC GM Wuling Company Ltd., and takes less than half of the profits from the joint venture, says Mark Modica, a National Legal and Policy Center associate fellow, but claims all of the sales as its own.

Cain said that as a 44 percent owner, GM is able to claim all of the sales made by the Chinese automaker because of the language in the company’s contract that deals with joint ventures.

If GM counted only its 44 percent of the automaker’s sales, it would have to erase nearly 120,000 automobiles from the books in June.

GM reported more than 213,000 automobiles sold in China in June — up 10 percent from a year ago, according to the Detroit Free Press.

A Standard and Poor’s Capital IQ analyst said GM’s claim to all of the sales — even though it is a minority owner — is something that is “just kind of done.”

GM’s claims may also display its fear of an economic slowdown in China.

“I don’t think they’re getting as big a bounce from China as they would’ve hoped,” said Charlie Brown, president and CEO of CB3 Financial Group Inc.

Brown said any positive news internationally is marred by GM’s inability to overcome the European economic crisis.

Modica said GM’s reported successes in China were based on false pretenses and are just another example of “one more game they played.”