Sales

Renault Nissan Just Beat Volkswagen To Become The World's Largest Automaker

Unlike Volkswagen, Nissan used a fuel economy scandal to get ahead rather than fall behind.

There isn’t a single predefined recipe for success in the auto industry because with the right idea, a sickeningly rugged work ethic, and good timing, anyone from Elon Musk to Henry Ford, and of course, Enzo Ferrari, can succeed despite striking differences in what comes out of their factories. However, there is one line that separates success from being the absolute best, and whatever it is, Renault Nissan Alliance has it. That’s because, according to CNN Money, it is now the world’s largest automaker.

Or at least that’s the story the sales numbers tell. Renault Nissan dethroned the previous champion, Volkswagen AG and its endless line of subsidiaries, by selling more than 5.27 million vehicles during the first six months of 2017. By comparison, Volkswagen Group only moved 5.15 million cars, SUVs, and commercial vehicles during the same period with Toyota hot on its heels having sold 5.13 million between January through June of 2017. General Motors, a frequent visitor to the list of mammoth automakers by sales volume, sold 4.75 million cars during the same period. Two things that Volkswagen and GM have in common that could explain the slackening of sales are too many cars and not enough SUVs.

While many of Volkswagen’s subsidiaries, Audi and Porsche for example, have been toiling to release more and SUVs, Volkswagen itself is lacking in that department, having just axed the Touareg and relying exclusively on the Tiguan and new Atlas to support SUV demand. General Motors seems to be having similar problems. While its SUV lineup is considerable in terms of size and variety, it’s invested too heavily on cars and now faces the prospect of having to axe smaller vehicles and divert funds towards developing more SUVs, especially under its luxury marquee, Cadillac. On the other hand, Nissan sells America’s hottest selling crossover, the Rogue, which added to its bottom line.

The real deciding factor in Renault Nissan’s win is its recent takeover of Mitsubishi. It bought a controlling stake in the company in 2016 after a fuel economy scandal hurt its stock price, giving Renault Nissan the perfect opportunity to sweep in and perform a takeover. Mitsubishi’s sales numbers alone are responsible for boosting the entire group's sales by half a million vehicles, giving it the edge it needed to surpass Volkswagen and Toyota. Seems Carlos Ghosn will be able to retire knowing he steered his ship in the right direction.

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