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Toyota stays ahead of VW in race for top spot

TOKYO, Apr 23 – Toyota Motor said on Thursday it had sold about 1.76 million vehicles worldwide in the first quarter of 2009, staying ahead of Germany\’s Volkswagen in the race to be this year\’s top selling automaker.

Toyota, which ended General Motors\’ 77-year reign as world number one in 2008, suffered a 26.7 percent drop in sales in the three months through March from a year earlier, company spokesman Paul Nolasco said.

The figures include its subsidiaries Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd.

But Toyota managed to easily keep its lead over Volkswagen, Europe\’s biggest carmaker, which on Wednesday reported global sales of 1.35 million vehicles in the first quarter, down 15.7 percent from a year earlier.

There had been speculation that Toyota might fall behind VW but the rumours proved unfounded.

GM has not yet reported global sales results for the quarter. In 2008 Toyota sold 8.97 million vehicles against GM\’s 8.35 million, despite the Japanese maker suffering its first drop in demand for a decade.

Toyota, like other automakers, has been hit hard by the global economic downturn and has forecast its first ever loss for the financial year which ended last month.

The group\’s global production plunged 45 percent in the first quarter of 2009 from a year earlier to about 1.395 million vehicles.

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