In 2020, the Toyota group ranked top for global auto sales for the first time in five years, on a pickup in sales in China and the U.S., overtaking Volkswagen, data showed Thursday. Toyota sold 9.53 million units last year, including those sold by Daihatsu and truck maker Hino, although the figure was down 11.3% on 2019. That compares with VW’s 9.31 million, down 15.2% from a year earlier.

Japan’s automakers have been forced to cut production at many factories due to the worsening global semiconductor shortage, as chipmakers struggle to meet soaring demand from the stay-home masses for new gadgets to play with. The shortage has caused disruption in China and the U.S. for Toyota and Honda — which has also paused production in Britain — and for Nissan in Japan.

Toyota beats VW to become world's best car seller | REUTERS
Toyota beats VW to become world’s best car seller | REUTERS

Nissan, which has a large plant in northern England, has had the added headache of having to deal with Brexit. Last month, the company decided to ship an upcoming electric vehicle to Europe from Japan rather than produce it in the U.K., although the hard Brexit it feared never came to pass.

While the auto industry dodged disaster when the U.K. and EU sealed a post-Brexit trade accord on Christmas Eve, Japanese carmakers had already announced factory closures and called off plans to make several new vehicles in the country.

However, last week Nissan COO Ashwani Gupta called Brexit-related problems at ports since Jan. 1 “peanuts” for his firm, which has had to handle COVID-19 and disasters such as the 3/11 quake and tsunami. Gupta said Nissan would source more batteries from Britain to avoid tariffs on electric cars under the EU deal. “Brexit, which we thought is a risk … has become an opportunity for Nissan,” he said.