* VW group deliveries fall 11.4 pct in Q1 amid market plunge
* Share of global car sales grows to 11.0 pct from 9.7 pct
* State incentives fuel sales in VW's three biggest markets
* Toyota's big markets - U.S. and Japan - struggling
(Adds analyst comment, details)
By Chang-Ran Kim and Christiaan Hetzner
TOKYO/FRANKFURT, April 17 Volkswagen AG may have
overtaken Toyota Motor Co to become the world's top-selling
carmaker in the first quarter, thanks to government incentives
that fuelled demand in VW's major markets.
Although overall VW deliveries to customers fell 11 percent
to around 1.39 million vehicles, the Wolfsburg-based group
dramatically increased its share of the global passenger car
market by 130 basis points to 11.0 percent.
"To gain market share during a crisis is certainly
remarkable," JATO Dynamics analyst Frank Brautlecht said.
Toyota has given no forecast for retail sales, but its
latest estimate for shipments for the 2009 first quarter is 1.23
million vehicles, down 47 percent from a year earlier.
"Volkswagen has the luck of being strong in the markets that
are currently growing, while Toyota is exposed to those that are
collapsing," said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of the Centre for
Automotive Research in Gelsenkirchen, adding the quarter's
results would be "close".
Volkswagen -- with its nine brands including Audi, Skoda,
Seat and truckmaker Scania -- aimed to surpass Toyota and
General Motors Corp as the world's No.1 seller by 2018 -- a
target that was met with heavy scepticism since VW sold just 6.3
million vehicles to Toyota's 9 million in 2008.
But a deepening recession and credit crisis have crippled
demand in Toyota's top markets, with U.S. sales falling 38
percent and Japan sliding 24 percent in January-March.
Market researcher R.L. Polk forecast VW -- majority owned by
Porsche -- will exceed GM's volumes this year after passing Ford
Volkswagen is benefiting from government stimulus plans for
the car industry that have boosted demand in Germany, China and
Brazil, its three biggest markets that together accounted for
half of all group sales in the first quarter.
In Germany, deliveries of Volkswagen group brands rose 4.5
percent to about 251,500 vehicles during the quarter. More than
160,000 new orders were booked as owners collected generous
subsidies to scrap old cars in exchange for purchasing new ones.
Toyota, which significantly outsold every other manufacturer
in 2008, has seen sales fall every month of this year in China,
its third-biggest market.
By contrast, VW has seized greater control of weak markets
like Russia. Despite a 39 percent contraction in overall Russian
demand, Volkswagen grew its volume by 14 percent, enshrining it
as the fourth-largest manufacturer in the country.
"Volkswagen is a big competitor for Toyota," said Koji Endo,
auto analyst at Credit Suisse in Tokyo. "Audi is strong,
Volkswagen is strong, and they're making good use of their small
VW's liquid preferred shares rose 3.1 percent to 55.26 euros
by 1337 GMT, in line with gains in the DJ Stoxx European car
In the first quarter of last year, the German group
delivered 1.57 million vehicles, a third less than Toyota's 2.41
million, which included sales at minivehicle and truck units
Daihatsu Motor Co and Hino Motors Ltd.
Toyota's first-quarter U.S. sales fell 36 percent, while
sales in Japan for the core Toyota brand plummeted 31 percent.
The two markets account for just under half of its global sales.
Toyota, which is expected to disclose its worldwide
first-quarter vehicle sales next week, could see competition
heat up sooner than it expects with an eventual showdown in the
United States -- the world's biggest car market where Volkswagen
is now little more than an also-ran.
Toyota is counting on a third-generation Prius hybrid car
due for roll-out next month to jump-start sales as more
countries offer consumers incentives to buy energy-efficient
cars. It will launch 16 new models in Europe this year following
a product drought last year.
Volkswagen will have in 2009 a full year of contribution
from the sixth generation of its flagship Golf hatchback and the
relaunch of its popular Polo subcompact.
VW has also moved up in stock value ranking, grabbing the
No.2 spot behind Toyota, whose market capitalisation of $133
billion still outstrips the German carmaker's $100 billion.
(Editing by Erica Billingham)