Solid sales so far this year have helped Japan’s Toyota Motor Company to retain the global car market leadership. But its challengers for the title, VW and GM, have edged closer, boosted by higher growth.
Japanese carmaker Toyota sold 7.41 million vehicles in the first nine months of 2013, posting growth of 0.1 percent compared with the same period last year.
Toyota's latest sales figure, released on Monday, included deliveries of about 119,000 heavy trucks made by its Hino Motors subsidiary, which was a gain of 3 percent.
The result made Toyota the best-selling global car manufacturer in the first three quarters of 2013, leaving behind US rival General Motors (GM) with 7.25 million vehicles, and Germany's Volkswagen (VW), which sold just over 7 million cars in the period.
Since taking the title from GM in 2008, the Japanese carmaker has managed to cling to it for four of the past five years. GM briefly retook the crown in 2011, when Toyota's suppliers were hit by an earthquake and a tsunami in northeastern Japan.
However, Toyota's lead has narrowed this year as its challengers posted substantially higher growth. GM sales were up 4.6 percent between January and September, while Volkswagen delivered 4.8 percent more vehicles.
Moreover, Toyota sales in the world's biggest growth market China are comparatively weak due to anti-Japanese sentiments in the country as a result of territorial disputes. VW and GM are much more successful in China, while Toyota's strongest overseas market remains the United States.
In addition, sales figures of the big three are somewhat biased in Toyota's favor, as Volkswagen routinely doesn't count truck and bus deliveries of its MAN and Scania brands, which usually add another 200,00 vehicles to the passenger car tally. GM doesn't have trucks and busses in its model range.
uhe/tj (AP, Reuters, dpa)