TOKYO — Toyota Motor retained its crown as the world’s top-selling automaker for the fourth consecutive year after posting record annual sales of 11.2 million in 2023, though its chairman apologized on Tuesday for scandals at three group companies.

The Japanese automaker reported a 7.2% jump in global group sales last year, including those at small-car maker Daihatsu and truck unit Hino Motors.

Those two subsidiaries and affiliate Toyota Industries have been beset by governance issues involving certification test procedures for cars and engines that could potentially hurt the brand’s global reputation for quality and safety.

“I would like to express my deepest apologies to our customers and stakeholders for the inconvenience and concern caused by the successive irregularities at Hino Motors, Daihatsu and Toyota Industries,” Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda told reporters at an event to announce a vision for the Toyota group founded by his great-grandfather that now includes 17 companies.

One of the five attitudes laid out for employees to focus on was: “Be honest and make things in a right way.”

The company said the event, originally planned for Feb. 14, the birthday of its late founder Sakichi Toyoda, was brought forward in light of recent irregularities at Toyota’s group companies.

STRONG SALES

Toyota’s global group sales have now topped 10 million vehicles for nine of the past 10 years, except for 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic delivered a blow to the auto sector.

Second-ranked German rival Volkswagen Group this month reported a 12% rise in deliveries last year to 9.2 million cars, marking a post-pandemic recovery as supply chain bottlenecks eased.

Tuesday’s data showed sales of Toyota’s parent-only vehicles, which include those of its namesake and Lexus brands, hit a record of 10.3 million vehicles in 2023.

Gasoline-electric hybrids made up about a third of those. Battery electric vehicles accounted for less than 1%.

Toyota, however, risks a slowdown in the group’s sales momentum after Daihatsu last month suspended shipments of all its cars after a safety scandal investigation found issues involving 64 models, including almost two dozen sold under Toyota’s brand.

Daihatsu said on Tuesday its global production slumped 25% to 121,000 vehicles in December and its worldwide sales were down about 8% that month. Japan’s transport ministry lifted a ban on shipments of 10 Daihatsu-made cars earlier in the day.

On Monday, Toyota disclosed it was suspending shipments of some Toyota models including the Hilux truck and Land Cruiser 300 SUV after an independent panel uncovered wrongdoing in tests for diesel engines developed by supplier Toyota Industries.

In 2022, another committee tasked with investigating an emissions scandal at Hino Motors found the truck unit had falsified engine emissions data going back to 2003. — Reuters

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