Tim O'Brien | Sep 1, 2008

There is a changing of the guard at the top of the global automotive manufacturing table. Ford, in dire trouble at home, has now slipped to fourth in global vehicle sales. Leap-frogging Ford into third place is the rapidly growing Volkswagen Group.

Henry Ford, who first gave the world the 'people's car' in the shape of the Model T could never have imagined that the colossus he created a century ago would now be so spectacularly weak at the knees. There is a nice irony however in Ford being beaten into fourth by the company that gave the world the second 'people's car' - the eponymous 'Volkswagen' Beetle.

"We are delighted that the Volkswagen Group has made it to the global automobile industry's top three for the first time. This shows that we are on the right track with our ever-stronger international presence and, above all, our product program. We will systematically push ahead with our growth course even in the present difficult market environment," Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, commented.

With 3.31 million vehicles delivered in the first half of 2008, the Volkswagen Group increased deliveries in the first six months of this year by 7.2 percent, moving up to third place in the global vehicle sales ranking and overtaking its rival Ford, which announced vehicle sales of 3.22 million for this period.

There is, of course, no mystery in this: people will buy damn good cars. It's a simple fact - and Volkswagen knows it.

Meanwhile, as you are no doubt are aware, General Motors trailed Japanese rival Toyota in global vehicle sales through the first half of 2008 (wounded deeply by a large decline in North American sales) with global sales falling three percent to 4.54 million vehicles. Higher GM sales in Europe, Asia and Latin America failed to offset a 15 percent decline in the Detroit giant's home market.

Toyota's first half 2008 sales rose 2.2 percent to 4.8 million.

Hmm. Toyota on top, Volks jumping Ford and closing in on GM. There might be another irony there... small matter of a little unpleasantness some time last century. Who lost again? (... mentioned the war, but I think I got away with it.)

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