Toyota has relinquished the title of the world's biggest automaker, reporting on Monday that it sold 10.175 million vehicles worldwide in 2016, fewer than Volkswagen's 10.31 million.
General Motors reports its tally next week. If General Motors' number falls short, it will be the first time the German automaker has become No. 1.It's a milestone achievement despite the taint to Volkswagen's reputation from a huge scandal over cheating on emissions tests. Booming China sales helped offset that damage.
Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp has held the global auto crown for the past four years, although it fell behind General Motors in 2011, when production was hit by a quake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.
Detroit-based General Motors was the top-selling automaker for more than seven decades until Toyota, which makes the Camry sedan, Prius hybrid and Lexus luxury models, surpassed it in 2008.
Toyota's global sales last year were slightly better than in 2015, up 0.2 per cent, but not good enough to beat Volkswagen, which has the Audi, Porsche and Skoda brands, and boosted its global sales 3.8 per cent from the year before. General Motors makes the Cadillac and Opel cars.
In 2015, Toyota sold 10.15 million vehicles while Volkswagen was second with 9.93 million and General Motors third with 9.8 million.
Toyota officials have repeatedly said they are not concerned with being No. 1 and just want to make good cars. Volkswagen was keen to dethrone Toyota but disavowed that goal after CEO Martin Winterkorn lost his job over the emissions scandal.
"At Toyota, we are not focused on chasing volume. We believe that our sales volume is just the result of our focus on making ever-better cars and providing better customer experiences," Toyota said in a statement.
"Our goal is to be No. 1 with consumers by engineering and producing ever-better cars. We are grateful to every customer who has chosen a Toyota vehicle."