Toyota Motor Corp. group ranked top in global auto sales in 2020 for the first time in five years on a robust pickup in sales in China and the United States, overtaking Volkswagen AG of Germany, data showed Thursday.

Toyota said it sold 9.53 million vehicles globally last year, including those sold by its group's minivehicle maker Daihatsu Motor Co. and truck manufacturer Hino Motors Ltd., down 11.3 percent from a year earlier.

The Japanese auto giant, however, suffered less of an impact from the coronavirus pandemic than other carmakers.

Toyota Motor Corp. holds a press conference at the Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition in China on Nov. 20, 2020. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Toyota's global annual sales logged their first decline in five years, after they fell sharply in the April-June quarter due to the worldwide economic fallout from the pandemic.

However, sales recovered in its main markets such as China and the United States from the fall, posting three consecutive months of increase from October, Toyota said.

A Toyota official said the company's aggressive sales strategy, which saw it roll out a series of new models, contributed to relatively solid sales in 2020 compared with other automakers.

"Our sales dropped from a year earlier amid the pandemic, but the decline was limited to around 10 percent level," the official said.

In 2020, the Toyota group sold 2.16 million vehicles including minicars in Japan and 7.37 million in overseas markets, while producing a total of 9.21 million units worldwide, down 14.1 percent from the previous year.

Toyota alone sold 8.69 million cars, down 10.5 percent, while production decreased 12.6 percent to 7.91 million vehicles.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen's global sales last year fell 15.2 percent to 9.31 million vehicles.

The total sales of the three-way alliance of Nissan Motor Co., Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. stood at 7.8 million vehicles, down 23.2 percent, due to its slower sales recovery in its main auto markets including the United States and Europe.

Nissan's sales plunged 22.2 percent to 4.03 million vehicles after it abandoned the expansionary production strategy of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

Renault's sales fell 21.3 percent to 2.95 million units, while Mitsubishi logged a 33.1 percent decline to 819,904 vehicles.

The combined auto sales of Japan's eight major automakers sank 15.9 percent to 23.49 million vehicles, with all manufacturers posting declines amid the pandemic.

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