DETROIT - Toyota Motor Corp. is believed to have recaptured the No. 1 spot in global automobile sales for the first time in two years.
Worldwide sales by Toyota are expected to hit 9.7 million units, a record high, in 2012, up 22 per cent from the previous year.
Toyota's estimated figure includes vehicles sold by its group companies, Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd.
General Motors Co. of the United States on Monday announced its global sales increased by 2.9 per cent to 9.29 million units for the year. Volkswagen AG of Germany sold a record-high 9.07 million units, up 11.2 per cent, in group sales.
In 2011, Toyota suffered major setbacks due to the Great East Japan Earthquake and floods in Thailand. However, sales rebounded in 2012 and it enjoyed brisk sales in North America and Asian markets.
Competition among major automakers is expected to intensify this year, with the world's top three makers all having topped 9 million units in 2012, observers said.
GM and Volkswagen have both failed to expand their share of the Chinese market sufficiently enough to compensate for decreased sales in Europe, where the economy remains sluggish due to the prolonged financial crises.
GM's sales in Europe decreased 8.2 per cent to 1.61 million units, while that of Volkswagen dropped 0.3 per cent to 3.67 million units. In China, sales by the US automaker increased 11.3 per cent to 2.84 million units, while that of the German automaker shot up 24.5 per cent to 2.81 million units.