GM reclaims title as world's No. 1 automaker

GM is once again the top-selling automaker in the world. The company's sales jumped 7.6 percent over the last year.

Paul Sancya/AP/FILE
The Chevrolet Tru 140S Concept Coupe is displayed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. General Motors Co. retook the title of world's top-selling automaker last year by selling just over 9 million cars and trucks across the globe.

General Motors Co. has retaken the title of world's top-selling automaker, selling just over 9 million cars and trucks across the globe.

The company said Thursday that it sold 9.03 million vehicles worldwide last year, up 7.6 percent from 2010. That's more than 1 million better than Japan's Toyota Motor Corp., which took the title away from GM in 2008.

GM had held the global sales crown for more than seven decades before losing it to Toyota, as GM's sales tanked while it headed toward financial ruin. In 2009, GM filed for bankruptcy protection, needing a U.S. government bailout to survive.

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Now GM is profitable again and its vehicles are selling well across the globe. The company reported net income of $7.1 billion for the first three quarters of last year, and it is expected to add to that number when it reports fourth-quarter and full-year results in February.

In 2011, Germany's fast-growing Volkswagen AG took second place behind GM with record global sales of 8.16 million, up 14 percent from the year before. The French-Japanese alliance of Renault and Nissan was third, selling 8.03 million vehicles.

Toyota ended up finishing fourth in 2011 with 7.9 million vehicles sold. Its sales were hurt last year because the March earthquake in Japan slowed its factories, and dealers ran short of cars to sell. Toyota is aiming for a comeback and has forecast that it will sell 8.48 million vehicles in 2012.

Auto industry analysts predict a tight race this year between GM, Volkswagen, Toyota and the Nissan-Renault joint venture.

Some analysts have said that VW is the world's biggest automaker because GM's figures include vehicles made by its Wuling joint venture in China. Many don't count Wuling because GM doesn't have controlling interest in the company, but GM includes it in global sales figures.

Excluding Wuling, GM would have been topped by Volkswagen.

Being the world's top-selling automaker doesn't mean much for the bottom line. But GM retaking the title is an example of how far the company has come since its 2009 bankruptcy.

GM CEO Dan Akerson said last week that the company isn't that concerned about posting large sales numbers and is focused more on making money so it can reinvest in products and generate returns for shareholders. But he says strong sales can bring strong finances.

"You're not going to achieve the financial goals we want to achieve and have declining market share or declining numbers of units sold," he said. "So it's one indicator among many."

GM said its sales were up in all four of its regions: North America, Europe, South America and International Operations, which includes Asia. The Chevrolet brand led the way, selling a record 4.76 million vehicles across the world.

GM sold 640,000 more cars and trucks last year than it did in 2010, when it sold 8.39 million.

RELATED: Is your dream car a top safety pick?

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