Toyota is still the biggest car company in the world. The new Auris (pictured) is one of many new products launched last year.

Toyota has regained the global sales crown that it lost to General Motors in 2011, when the effects of the Japanese tsunami hampered production.

Toyota first overtook GM as the world's biggest carmaker in 2008, a position GM had held for 77 consecutive years.

GM might have gobbled a smaller slice of 2012's sales pie (down 0.4 percent to 11.9 percent), with its sales having been hit by a deep downturn in Europe, but it is once again making record profits and the men at the top seem happy enough.


GM chief Dan Akerson exclaimed: "As I said last year, I didn't necessarily want to be number one in sales as I wanted to be number one in profitability - that's what we focus on."

While GM has managed to hang onto the number two spot in worldwide sales, with 9.2 million vehicles sold, VW is not far behind with sales up 11 percent in 2012 to 9.07 million.

VW aspires to be the world's biggest carmaker by 2018.


Toyota maintains a much larger lead and has forecast its 2012 sales will jump 22 percent to 9.7 million vehicles.

"Last year was a breakout year for us in a number of ways," said Jim Lentz, head of Toyota Motor Sales USA.

While it's great to be back on top again, Lentz insisted that "it's not that big of a deal."

"I don't really look at the global sales crown very much," he told AFP on the sidelines of the Detroit Motor Show.

"I'm sure we'll have a cup of coffee and say 'wasn't that great?' but by lunch we'll have forgotten about it and be back to business."


While Toyota also set new records for vehicle productions, sales and vehicle launches in the United States last year, Lentz said the key measure is how the company connects to customers.

"The important number is how we're doing with retail customers," Lentz said in an interview, noting that the Toyota brand was the number one US retailer in 2012 as sales grew 27 percent. -AFP