Despite a steady stream of news about recalls and strikes, the auto industry was highly profitable in 2019. As the industry moved into 2020, the following five car companies were among the most profitable automakers in the world.

Toyota Motor Corporation

Toyota Motor Corporation (NYSE: TM) topped the list with $17.5 billion in net income for the year before Sept. 30, 2019. Toyota's profits were up slightly in the third quarter, driven by strength in Japan and North America. However, Toyota's income from the emerging markets has suffered because of exchange rates. Toyota benefited from strong sales during 2019. The firm expected to sell 8.95 million cars for its fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.

Volkswagen

Volkswagen (OTC: VLKAF) posted approximately $15.6 billion in profits for the year ending on Sept. 30, 2019. Volkswagen's profits have now fully recovered from a devastating emissions test cheating scandal in 2015. The resulting combination of billions of dollars in fines and bad publicity caused Volkswagen to lose money during parts of 2015 and 2016. Volkswagen's stock price rose substantially between late 2015 and 2019 as the company's image and profitability improved.

General Motors Company

General Motors (NYSE: GM) turned in profits of $9.0 billion for the year ending September 30, 2019. General Motors managed to make over $3 billion in pretax profits during the third quarter, despite a United Auto Workers (UAW) strike. The labor dispute has since been settled, but it is expected to reduce GM's profits for the fourth quarter of 2019.

Bavarian Motor Works (BMW)

The luxury carmaker BMW (OTC: BMWYY) produced a net income of $5.6 billion in the year ending on Sept. 30, 2019. Profits were down nearly four billion dollars from a year earlier. Rising costs, substantial investment in new technologies, and a massive fine contributed to the decline.

Honda Motor Company

Honda Motor Company (NYSE: HMC) recorded $4.8 billion in profits during the year before Sept. 30, 2019. Honda's profits were down more than 50% from just a year earlier. A series of costly recalls was behind Honda's falling profits. The recalls also appear to have damaged Honda's reputation for reliability and slowed sales.