General Motors Corp.'s top global sales and marketing executive only gloated a little when he gave the company's employees a pep talk Friday about holding off Toyota to retain the title of world's largest auto company.
In a posting on GM's internal computer network, John Middlebrook, vice president of global sales, service and marketing, used the victory to tell all 274,000 workers to stay focused on the company's turnaround efforts.
"Let me say that I like to win," Middlebrook wrote in the posting, obtained by The Associated Press. "And I know you do too. We still have most of 2008 in front of us, and we will fight hard for every sale."
Toyota was not mentioned in his note, but Middlebrook did say "we beat our largest competitor in nine of the 10 largest markets in the world." The company said it won in all top 10 countries but Japan.
Solid sales growth in emerging markets gave GM its narrow victory over Toyota in the 2007 global sales race, allowing the Detroit automaker to keep its top spot for the 77th year.
Toyota said Thursday it sold 9.366 million vehicles last year globally, up 6 percent from 2006. That was about 3,000 vehicles fewer than GM's tally announced Wednesday _ 9,369,524 vehicles sold, up 3 percent from the previous year.
Automotive News, an industry trade publication, disputed GM's claim to victory on Thursday, saying that the company improperly counted sales from a Chinese joint venture.
The weekly magazine said on its Web site that GM includes in its total 516,435 Wuling brand vehicles in China, but it owns only 34 percent of the Chinese company that produces them, SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co.
Automotive News said it follows industry practice by including sales of only majority-owned subsidiaries in an automaker's global total.
GM has said it owns a majority of the legally available shares of the company, so counting the Wuling sales is legitimate.
"They are now officially able to be included. There was some noise around that last year, but these are legitimate sales," Mike DiGiovanni, GM's executive director of global market and industry analysis, said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters and industry analysts.
Middlebrook said in his message that the global auto industry is growing rapidly, and GM is in position to take advantage of it.
"Remember that we are in a marathon, not a sprint. I appreciate all you are doing to support our efforts to transform GM for long-term growth," he wrote.
On the Net:
General Motors Corp.: http://www.gm.com
Toyota Motor Corp. http://www.toyota.com