FLINT, Mich. - General Motors has a shot at being No. 1 again.
The resurgent automaker reported Monday that its worldwide sales last year came within 30,000 of beating Japanese rival Toyota, which took a big hit because of safety recalls.
General Motors Co. sold more cars and trucks in China last year than it did in the U.S., for the first time in the company’s 102-year history.
But despite GM’s gains in China, Toyota Motor Corp. managed to hold onto the title of world’s largest automaker. The Japanese company reported 8.42 million sales worldwide last year compared to GM’s 8.39 million.
GM expects its sales growth to continue, and industry analysts say it may dethrone Toyota as the global sales leader this year. The news came the same day that GM announced it was adding a shift and workers to a plant in Flint, Mich., that makes hot-selling pickup trucks.
GM and Toyota tied for the global sales lead in 2007, ending GM’s 76-year string of dominance. Toyota took the title in 2008 and has held it ever since, but last year’s string of embarrassing safety recalls and a resurgent GM combined to make the race close again.
Regaining the global lead means a lot to workers on the assembly line in Flint, Mich., a town devastated by years of auto industry job losses. Just two years ago, they didn’t know if their factory or even their company would survive.
Dana Rouse, a union official at the pickup truck factory in Flint, called overtaking Toyota the Heisman Trophy of the auto business.
“We’re going to take Toyota on, and the people in Flint are going to be a part of that,” he said. “This is the birthplace of General Motors. We kind of take it a little more seriously than maybe some other towns.”
On Monday, GM recalled 750 laid-off workers for a third shift at the Flint assembly plant because of strong demand for the heavy-duty pickup trucks made there. The trucks are used mainly for construction, plowing snow and other work, and the increased demand is a sign of economic recovery. Other production increases could be coming, but GM won’t go overboard by reopening closed pickup factories, Reuss said.