Toyota reported 2007 worldwide sales of 9.37 million cars and trucks and that could be enough to propel the Japanese corporation ahead of General Motors to become the world's largest automaker.
GM, which is held the title for 76 years, will report company sales figures January 23. Analysts, however, estimate GM sales for 2007 at approximately 9.3 million cars and trucks.
Toyota sales increased of 6 percent in 2007 and the automaker predicts a 5 percent sales rise in 2008 to 9.85 million vehicles.
Toyota executives have downplayed the importance of the milestone and have refused to celebrate overtaking GM.
"It's just one moment," Shoichiro Toyoda, Toyota's honorary chairman, said . "We need to just keep working harder." Toyoda is a member of the founding family of the automaker and a former company president.
GM Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner told auto industry reporters last week that he and the company continue to focus attention on restructuring GM.
Toyota remains highly profitable as GM continues to struggle financially. GM has been downsizing its U.S. manufacturing operations to balance car and truck production with a declining market share.
Toyota replaced Ford in 2007 as the number two selling name plate in the U.S. dropping Ford to third place.
The popular Toyota Prius hybrid was a big winner in the U.S.and a reason for Toyota overtaking Ford.
Prius sales dominated hybrid market with more than 50 percent of all hybrid sales. The Prius set a record for U.S. sales in 2007 at 181,221, a 53 percent gain over 2006.
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