File picture: Toru Hanai / Reuters.

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance narrowly held onto its place as the top seller of cars last year despite the spectacular arrest of its boss Carlos Ghosn, figures showed on Wednesday, very narrowly beating Volkswagen and Toyota.

The French-Japanese alliance, which first took the top spot in 2017, saw its sales rise by 1.4 percent last year to reach 10.76 million passenger cars and light utility vehicles.

While Nissan saw sales of its brands slide 2.8 percent last year, Renault posted a gain of 3.2 percent and Mitsubishi revved 18 percent higher.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen announced record sales of 10.83 million vehicles by its stable of a dozen brands including Audi and Porsche, an increase of 0.9 percent.

But that figure includes 233 000 trucks sold by its MAN and Scania brands, and once those are stripped out the group sold 10.6 million cars and light utility vehicles, putting it just behind Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi.

Toyota remained in third place last year with sales of 10.59 million vehicles, a figure that also includes trucks.

GM, which sold off its Opel brand in 2017, is expected to come in fourth place with sales of more than 8 million vehicles in 2018.  

Hyundai, which includes Kia, rounds out the top five with 7.4 million vehicles, a record for the Korean group.

Agence France-Presse