VW likely to win global sales crown as Toyota growth slows

TOKYO (AP) " Volkswagen can in all likelihood claim the title of world's biggest automaker for the first time.

Toyota reported Monday that it sold 10.175 million vehicles worldwide in 2016, fewer than Volkswagen's 10.31 million.

The only contender left is General Motors Co., which is unlikely to come near VW's number because sales fell last year in the U.S., its second-biggest market. The company will release results next week, but spokesman Jim Cain said he doesn't think GM will hit 10.3 million.

For VW, it's a milestone achievement despite the taint to its reputation from a huge scandal over cheating on emissions tests. Booming China sales, where VW sells few diesels, helped offset that damage.

Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. has held the global auto crown for the past four years, although it fell behind GM in 2011, when production was hit by an earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.

Detroit-based GM 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 percent, but not good enough to beat Volkswagen, which has the Audi, Porsche and Skoda brands, and boosted its global sales 3.8 percent from the year before.

GM, which makes the Chevrolet, Cadillac and Opel brands, sold 9.8 million vehicles globally in 2015. To reach 10.3 million, sales would have to rise 5 percent, a difficult task since U.S. sales dropped 1.3 percent due mainly to a deliberate cut in deliveries to rental car companies.

In 2015, Toyota sold 10.15 million vehicles while Volkswagen was second with 9.93 million. GM was third.

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.

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Auto Writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed. Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/yuri-kageyama

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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