Last year, Toyota sold 9.7 million cars and trucks worldwide to beat GM’s 9.29 million and Volkswagen at 9.1 million.
Toyota shrugged off the latest results, echoing its typical past response.
“Rather than pursuing numbers, we try to sell one car at a time, producing good cars. We aren’t focused on being No. 1,” said company spokeswoman Shino Yamada.
GM said it is aggressively trying to take customers from other automakers by rolling out new vehicles and entering new market segments. “Toyota, Ford, Volkswagen. It doesn’t matter whose customers we win. A day doesn’t go by that we don’t try to increase our sales all over the world,” spokesman Jim Cain said.
Michael Dunne, an expert on the auto industry in China and president of Dunne & Co., said that Chinese are still buying quite a number of Japanese cars, but he also warned the competition remained intense.
“They must contend with powerful American, German and Korean competitors. In addition, they must find ways to cooperate with their Chinese joint venture partners, which can be difficult duty when the two countries are at odds over territory,” he said.
AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher contributed to this report from Detroit. Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at www.twitter.com/yurikageyama