VW grabs global auto sales crown, but Renault-Nissan Alliance closes the gap

Volkswagen managed to hang on to its global sales crown last year despite an aggressive challenge from its Euro-Asian rival, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

The three top auto groups each managed to deliver more than 10 million vehicles worldwide last year, but the industry saw a sharp dip by General Motors, the long-time sales king sliding by more than 1 million sales for the year, into a distant fourth place.

VW said it delivered about 10.83 million vehicles last year, giving it a modest 70,000-unit lead over its closest rival — the fifth time in a row it led the industry. The German marque’s sales were up 0.9 percent for the year as it continued to recover from the diesel emissions scandal that had hammered its image, especially in the critical U.S. market.

VW managed to fend off its rivals with the help of its MAN and Scania heavy truck subsidiaries. Excluding those, the Wolfsburg-based company sold a total of 10.6 million light-duty vehicles in 2018.

That means that the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance was able to maintain bragging rights in that segment, having sold 10.76 million light-duty products in 2018. None of the three partners sells heavy-duty trucks.

Until two years ago, what was then the Renault-Nissan Allliance was a distant challenger for global sales leadership. That changed when Nissan purchased a controlling stake in Mitsubishi. For 2018, that struggling Japanese automaker added sales of 1.2 million to the alliance total, up 18 percent for the year for Mitsubishi. In fact, the Euro-Asian group might have been able to topple VW overall were it not for a 2.8 percent sales decline by Nissan, which delivered 5.7 million light vehicles. The French partner, Renault, sold 3.9 million cars and light duty trucks, up 3.2 percent.