A man walks through a Volkswagen dealership Sean Gallup, Getty Images

Volkswagen Grabs Pole Position in Race for World's Biggest Automaker

The German auto giant tops Toyota by about 20,000 units sold from January through June, and is expected to hold onto the year-end No. 1 ranking for the first time.

Volkswagen passed Toyota in the manufacturing battle for the title of world’s biggest automaker, figures showed Tuesday, as the German giant outsold its Japanese rival in the first half of the year.

Volkswagen reported 5.04 million units sold around the world from January through June, edging Toyota, which reported 5.02 million units sold during the same time period, by about 20,000 units.

General Motors is third, with 4.86 million units sold.

Toyota snapped GM’s decades-long reign as the world’s top automaker in 2008, but lost the crown three years later after Japan’s 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster hammered production and disrupted the supply chains of the country’s automakers. Toyota topped its Detroit rival again in 2012.

But the Japanese automaker is expecting sales this year to slip to 10.15 million vehicles from a record 10.23 million in 2014, owing to a shaky outlook for Japan, and as it beefs up its focus on quality after a string of safety scandals.

Volkswagen is now in pole position as the German automaker rides momentum in emerging economies that will likely see it take the top spot in annual global auto sales for the first time in 2015.

In April, Toyota announced it was ending a freeze on building new factories by unveiling plans for a $1 billion plant in rising industry power Mexico and another production line in China.

The carmaker began operating a new Thai plant in 2013, but since then has halted investment as the global car market struggled with oversupply and weak demand. 

Toyota, along with a handful of other major automakers, has also been struggling to recover a reputation for safety after the recall of millions of cars around the world for various problems, including an exploding air bag crisis from supplier Takata.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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