July 28, 2016 / 3:56 PM / 4 years ago

Despite dieselgate, VW becomes top-selling carmaker as Toyota slips

TOKYO/BERLIN (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp reported a drop in first-half vehicle sales on Thursday following a series of production stoppages, falling behind Volkswagen which became the world’s top-selling carmaker in the first six months of 2016 despite its emissions scandal.

The logo of German car maker Volkswagen is pictured at the company's stand during the Hannover Fair in Hanover, Germany, April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

The Japanese company, which manufactures the Toyota, Lexus and Daihatsu brands, said its global sales slid 0.6 percent in January-June to 4.992 million vehicles worldwide, down from 5.021 million in the same period last year.

Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) said on Wednesday it delivered 5.116 million vehicles in the same period, a 1.5 percent rise.

Having been the world’s best-selling automaker for four consecutive years through 2015, Toyota (7203.T) has suffered this year from a hit to Japanese production after an earthquake in April damaged a plant operated by a key supplier, halting production at many of its lines across the country for weeks.

Before that, production at domestic assembly plants ground to a halt for a week in February after an explosion at one of the automaker’s steel suppliers led to a shortage of parts.

For the month of June, sales of Toyota vehicles, which include the Camry and Corolla sedans and the gasoline hybrid Prius, fell 1.1 percent on the year to 881,000.

VW’s sales have so far not taken a beating from its “dieselgate” scandal, sparked by its admission in September that it installed illegal software to mask toxic emissions on about 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide.

While sales of its mass-market VW brand have suffered, this has been more than offset by strong demand for luxury Audi and Porsche models as well as Czech brand Skoda.

Europe’s largest automaker said on Thursday it expected full-year sales to come in slightly above last year’s 9.93 million deliveries, as demand in China and Western Europe outweighs declines in the Americas and Russia.

Although the emissions scandal has tarnished its reputation and triggered a multitude of lawsuits, VW has maintained sales in part by offering incentives to buyers in the United States and other markets while it repositions its business by investing in electric cars and on-demand transport services.

General Motors (GM.N), the largest U.S. automaker, is third in global sales rankings, with six-month sales of 4.76 million vehicles, down 1.2 percent from a year earlier.

Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu in Tokyo and Andreas Cremer in Berlin; Editing by Mark Potter

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