By Yoko Kubota
TOKYO -- Toyota looked set to retain its title as the world's top-selling carmaker in the first half of this year, company figures showed Friday, outpacing General Motors and Volkswagen as it boosted overseas sales to a record high.
The Japanese automaker said its groupwide global sales for the first six months totaled 4.911 million vehicles. That was down 1.1 percent from a year earlier due to weaker Japan sales following the end of green car subsidies, but sales in the United States, its biggest market, were strong.
By comparison, General Motors' (GM) January-June sales rose 4 percent to more than 4.85 million cars and light trucks, while Volkswagen AG's climbed 5.5 percent to 4.7 million vehicles, those companies reported earlier this month.
Volkswagen's sales figure, however, excludes its Scania and MAN brands. Scania sold 37,980 vehicles during the same period, while the MAN figure will be released later this month. In recent years, MAN has sold around 60,000 to 70,000 vehicles in the first half of the year.
Toyota (TM) regained the global sales crown last year after slipping to third place behind GM and Volkswagen in 2011, when its supply chain was hit by naturals disasters in Japan and Thailand and after a series of recalls tarnished its reputation for quality. Previously, it had been on top from 2008 through 2010.
Toyota's groupwide total includes sales at Daihatsu Motor and Hino Motors.
Toyota, based in central Japan, last year made about 40 percent of its vehicles in Japan and exported nearly 60 percent of that. It has benefited from a weaker yen that allows it to export cars more profitably.
Toyota, which is scheduled to announce quarterly results on Aug. 2, is expected to post an 84 percent year-on-year rise in operating profit to 649 billion yen ($6.5 billion) and an operating profit margin of 10.8 percent, according to analyst forecasts. The results would likely outpace those of No. 2 Japanese automaker Nissan and third-ranked Honda (HMC).