The Japanese automaker said last Tuesday that it planned to produce 9.95 million cars and trucks in 2008 and expected to sell 9.85 million, a five percent increase over this year's sales, estimated at 9.36 million vehicles.
General Motors sold 9.1 million cars and trucks in 2006, a one percent decline from 2005, and has not forecast sales for this year or next.
"We will announce year-end global sales and production in the first quarter, probably in the middle of January," said GM spokesman Chris Preuss. "Until then, we have no comment on where the title of No. 1 will end up."
Toyota first overtook General Motors in the first quarter of 2007. But the American automaker regained the lead in the high-profile competition after outselling Toyota in the second and third quarters. For the first nine months of this year, Toyota's sales totaled 7.05 million cars and trucks sold under the Toyota, Hino, Daihatsu, Scion and Lexus brands, slightly lower than General Motors' sales of 7.06 million vehicles.
Both automakers are depending mainly on sales growth outside their home markets. Toyota said that its year-end sales are expected to show a four percent decline in the shrinking Japanese auto market, but a ten percent rise overseas.
So far this year, General Motors American sales plummeted 6.1 percent and the company is downsizing its domestic production operations to bring its output in line with its declining market share.
Toyota executives scaled back their 2008 United States sales forecasts because of economic uncertainty stemming from the subprime mortgage crisis and high gas prices, according to Detroit News. Toyota executives in Japan said that they expect sales to grow only one percent next year in the U.S., to 2.64 million vehicles, reported the Associated Press. They expect modest growth in Europe. However, they anticipate solid gains in booming emerging markets such as China and Russia, where Toyota and General Motors are locked in fierce competition.
With the recent inflation of gasoline prices, the Japanese automaker has benefited from a vehicle lineup that includes many small and fuel-efficient cars.
Koji Endo, an analyst with Credit Suisse in Tokyo, told AP that 2008 would be a challenging year for Toyota, particularly in the U.S. market, but that Toyota's growth expectations seemed "reasonable."
As manufacturers of Rancho shocks, Brembo brakes and other companies compete, tighter rivalry is expected between the two auto giants.