Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.
Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.
I would like to contribute
Vice President Joe Biden declared General Motors "the largest corporation in the world" in an April 1, 2012, interview on Face the Nation.
It was no April Fool’s joke.
We knew GM’s auto sales were back on top in 2011 — aided by its joint ventures in China and a tsunami-burdened Toyota — but the world’s largest corporation? We just had to check.
(Hat-tip to a reader who asked us whether he was right, emailing a a Fox News piece by Karl Rove that took Biden to task. Email, Twitter, Facebook — send claims our way!)
Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer had asked Biden to respond to comments by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney that President Barack Obama’s term had "been a failure."
Biden declared the former Massachusetts governor "a little out of touch."
"Look, you know, everything that he said, the American people don't think the policies have worked. Romney argued about let — not an exact quote — but let Detroit go bankrupt. Wasn't very popular action the president took. Now they're hiring people. You know, hundreds of thousands of new people instead of losing 400,000 jobs. General Motors is the largest corporation in the world again."
Romney had argued for a managed bankruptcy instead of a government-aided turnaround. Detroit automakers are hiring again. But the claim that GM "is the largest corporation in the world again"? It’s not.
Top companies lists
Fortune and Forbes both annually rank the world’s largest companies.
The Fortune Global 500 ranks them by total revenues. The Forbes Global 2000 ranks them by sales, profit, assets and market value.
GM didn’t make the top of either list last year.
Not even among automakers. Or among U.S. companies starting with the word, "General." Toyota and Volkswagen both beat out GM on the Fortune list. They were No. 8 and No. 13.
GM was No. 20. (That other American institution, General Electric? No. 16.)
On the broader-based Forbes list, Volkswagen weighed in at No. 24. Daimler (think Mercedes-Benz) hit No. 43. Ford and Toyota ranked No. 54 and No. 55.
General Motors trailed at No. 61. (General Electric? No. 3.)
When Forbes broke out its rankings by category, GM didn’t lead any of them. Rather, it was:
• No. 18 in sales
• No. 70 in profit
• No. 155 in assets
• No. 148 in market value
Biden may have been reaching for a different statistic — that GM’s sales led other automakers in 2011, subject to a few caveats. But he didn’t say that. He said, "General Motors is the largest corporation in the world again." Surely the vice president of the United States can pick his words more carefully. We rate this claim False.
CBS News' Face the Nation, "Joe Biden, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul," April 1, 2012
CQ Newsmaker Transcripts, "Bob Schieffer Hosts CBS's ‘Face the Nation,’" April 1, 2012, subscription only
PolitiFact, "President Barack Obama says that after bailout, GM is now the world's top automaker," Jan. 25, 2012
PolitiFact, "Mitt Romney says Obama gave away car companies to union," Feb. 27, 2012
Email interview with Kendra Barkoff, press secretary to Vice President Joe Biden, April 9, 2012
Fox News, Karl Rove: "Fresh fibs, half-truths and more from Biden but media stays mum," April 3, 2012
Los Angeles Times, "Automakers plan to hire thousands of workers this year," Jan. 12, 2012
Fortune, "Our annual ranking of the world's largest companies," July 25, 2011, via CNNMoney
Fortune, "Our annual ranking of the world's largest corporations, Definitions and Explanations," July 2011, via CNNMoney
Forbes, "The World's Biggest Public Companies," April 20, 2011
Forbes, "The World's Biggest Public Companies: List," 2011
Forbes, "Global 2000 Leading Companies: General Motors," 2011
Forbes, "Global 2000 Methodology," April 20, 2011
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.