Japanese carmaker Toyota led US automobile sales in 2021, according to figures released Tuesday, overtaking General Motors for the first time as a shortage of semiconductors roils the industry.

GM's loss of its long-held crown as biggest US automaker came as a shortage of crucial computer chips plagued automakers throughout 2021, resulting in steep fourth-quarter sales declines for both companies.

But Toyota still managed to grow annual sales in the United States by 10.4 percent to 2.3 million, while General Motors suffered a 12.9 percent drop to 2.2 million.

Toyota saw modest annual gains for two top-selling sedans, the Camry and the Corolla, and a modest dip in sales of its Rav4 compact SUV. Its full-sized Highlander SUV scored higher sales in 2021.

GM, which relies more heavily on trucks than Toyota, saw an annual 10.8 percent drop in its Silverado pickup trucks and a 6.4 percent fall in its GMC truck line.

Toyota last year overtook General Motors for the first time in US auto sales, with the Highlander SUV a bestseller
Toyota last year overtook General Motors for the first time in US auto sales, with the Highlander SUV a bestseller GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA via AFP / SPENCER PLATT

While GM has rued low inventories, Chief Executive Mary Barra and other executives have touted strong vehicle pricing, which has enabled it to remain profitable even as sales sag.

Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of insights, alluded to record pricing at GM in a note released Monday that previewed the annual sales rankings.

"There's no question that this is a remarkable feat for Toyota, but this is not likely a sign of a long-term change: GM has an advantage in that it has more brands and products for consumers to choose from, namely large trucks and SUVs, which have only increased in popularity over the years," Caldwell said.

Caldwell noted that interest remains elevated in GM's aggressive push into electric vehicles. On Wednesday, Barra is scheduled to deliver a virtual keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show to unveil an electric version of the Silverado.

Toyota's press release noted $3 billion in new US investments targeting EV development, while Ford said Tuesday it will nearly double production capacity for the electric version of its top-selling F-150 pickup truck.