TOKYO -- The alliance of Renault, Nissan Motor and Mitsubishi Motors sold a combined 5,538,000 vehicles in the January-June period, up 5.1% on the year and outperforming Volkswagen's 5,519,000 and Toyota Motor as the three groups battle for supremacy.
This marked the trio's second straight time leading in first-half sales. Renault sold 2,067,000 autos, Nissan moved 2,854,000 and Mitsubishi Motors sold 616,000.
Nissan's unit sales dropped for the first time in five years, hurt by sluggishness in North America despite strength in China. Mitsubishi Motors continued to grow in Southeast Asia. The company's sales got a boost from the Eclipse Cross sport utility vehicle, its first new model in Japan in four years.
Nissan, Japan's second-largest automaker, acquired a 34% stake in Mitsubishi Motors in October 2016. Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn had spoken of Mitsubishi Motors' strength in the fast-growing Southeast Asian market. The alliance's first-half sales for 2018 justified the $2.29 billion investment.
Volkswagen's tally rose 7.1% to a record as the German automaker enjoyed brisk sales in key markets including Europe. Sales grew 9% in its largest national market, China, where the Audi brand and midsize Volkswagen sedans fared well.
Toyota's groupwide sales, including minicar maker Daihatsu Motor and truck specialist Hino Motors, rose 1.6% to 5,209,000 vehicles. The Camry and Corolla sold briskly in China. Overall volume was the group's highest ever for a first half but still behind rivals as a boost from new products ran its course and it operated Japanese production facilities fewer days because of inclement weather.
General Motors came in fourth, with the U.S. automaker's sales sliding 11.3% on the year to 4,156,000. Sales in North America climbed 2.6%, but European sales tumbled 99.7% on the unloading of Opel and other operations to Groupe PSA of France.