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Toyota Zips Past GM To Remain World's Biggest Automaker, Setting New Goal

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Toyota FT-1

Toyota FT-1

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For the second year in a row, Toyota has driven to the top of the auto industry heap. According to Detroit News, the Japanese car company sold a record-setting 9.98 million vehicles in calendar year 2013, which, in sales terms, makes Toyota the world's biggest automaker.

This is something of a miraculous comeback for Toyota, which suffered a major setback in 2010 thanks to a series of headline-grabbing recalls for its Toyota and Lexus vehicles. The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated northern Japan in March 2011 only complicated matters. That Toyota has bounced back so quickly is fairly remarkable.

What's more, Toyota has set an even higher goal for 2014, hoping to sell 10.32 million vehicles by December 31. If Toyota is successful, it will become the first automaker in the world to cross the 10 million mark in global sales.

This year, Toyota was helped by strong U.S. sales, which topped 2.4 million units. Sales in China were also strong, ending at around 917,000. The company hopes that U.S. sales will grow a fairly modest three percent in 2014 (as opposed to the seven percent uptick seen in 2013), but its goals in China rest on a whopping 20 percent surge in sales, up from just nine percent in 2013.

Coming in second place for 2013 was General Motors, with global sales of 9.71 vehicles. Volkswagen came in third, at 9.5 million.

Of course, Toyota isn't spending much time celebrating its #1 ranking. In its characteristically humble fashion, the company has said that it's more concerned with being the best automaker in the world rather than the largest. GM has made similar remarks, though it admits that being the biggest does improve morale among employees. 

Volkswagen, on the other hand, is working overtime to claw its way to the top rung by the year 2018. Disappointing sales in Europe and the U.S. have hindered VW's goals, though it's hoping that a new SUV will improve its image with Americans. Unfortunately, that vehicle won't arrive in showrooms until at least 2016. Will its bold strategy work? Who knows, but at least it'll be entertaining to watch.

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