Volkswagen Expected to Overtake Toyota as Global Leader in Vehicle Sales

Jul 31, 2014 02:10 PM EDT | Matt Mercuro

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Volkswagen is set to overtake Toyota Motors as the global leader in vehicle sales, thanks to a rapid expansion drive in China, the world's biggest auto market.

Toyota meanwhile is curbing growth in order to focus on shoring up quality. The automaker, who has held the top spot for two years, announced a global sales growth of 3.8 percent for the first six months of 2014 to 5.097 million vehicles on July 30, a record first-half result.

Volkswagen is growth faster however and its half-year total could surpass the Japanese automaker, according to Reuters.

Volkswagen sold 4.97 million vehicles from January through June, and increase of 5.9 percent from the same time in 2013. The figure excludes numbers from truck makers Scania and MAN, which will be released on July 31.

HIS Automotive forecast Volkswagen's first-half sales total at 5.07 million vehicles, including the truckmasters, according to Reuters.

Toyota's results exceeded the HIS forecast of 4.83 million. Results have been credited to strong sales in the U.S., China, and Europe.

Even if Toyota is able to keep its crown during the first half, its reign could end before the year is over.

"China is the driving force of the global market, and the degree to which a company is focused on that region is linked to the global sales performance," said Yoshiaki Kawano, a Tokyo-based analyst at IHS Automotive, according to Reuters.

General Motors sold 4.92 vehicles in January-June despite all of their recent issues.

Volkswagen, which sold 3.27 vehicles in China last year, announced that it is planning on investing 118.2 billion euros ($24.4 billion) between 2014 and 2018 in new plants and products there along with its Chinese joint venture partners.

Toyota won't build any new plants until around 2016 and President Akio Toyoda has repeatedly stressed that the company is dedicated on building better cars rather than increasing sales.

"Even if Toyota makes up its mind on potential investments soon, it'll be around 2017 when those plants can start operating," said Takaki Nakanishi, auto analyst and CEO of Nakanishi Research Institute, according to Reuters.

Nakanishi expects to announce investment plans for new plants sometime in the near future.

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