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G.M. had been the largest carmaker since 1931, two years before Toyota
began making cars in Japan. Toyota had been closing in on G.M. for years; its
sales surged around the world while G.M.’s global expansion was tempered by
decades of falling market share in the United States. The two had traded places
from one quarter to the next in recent years. G.M. had been widely expected to
slip into second place in 2007 but held off Toyota by about 3,000
G.M.’s global sales fell 26 percent in the fourth quarter, and the company
received a $4 billion loan in December; it is expecting another $5.4 billion
installment any day.
G.M., which upon release of its 2008 sales figures Wednesday began
describing itself on official statements as merely “one of the world’s largest
automakers,” expects a rough road in the months ahead, for itself as well as its
competitors. It recently reduced its United States sales forecast for all
automakers in 2009 to 10.5 million, compared with 13.2 million in 2008.
target is to hold market share this year,” Mr. DiGiovanni said, which would
translate to a 20 percent decline in sales for the company, based on its
forecast for the industry. But even in such a depressed market, G.M. has
expressed confidence that it can remain solvent. It must submit a restructuring
plan to the government by March 31 showing that it is viable.