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Toyota No. 1 with record first-quarter sales

– Toyota kept its position at the top in global vehicle sales for the first quarter of this year, outpacing rivals General Motors and Volkswagen.

Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday that it sold a record 2.583 million vehicles in the January-March period, putting the Japanese automaker ahead of GM at 2.42 million and Volkswagen at 2.4 million.

Toyota’s first-quarter sales rose by more than 6 percent from the same period the previous year. GM’s sales grew 2 percent, while Volkswagen’s increased nearly 6 percent.

Toyota finished first last year with a record 9.98 million vehicles in sales, remaining the top-selling automaker for a second year in a row. GM finished second and VW third.

Toyota aims for sales of more than 10 million vehicles this year. No automaker has sold that many in a year. Toyota officials say being No. 1 in sales is not that important and that they want to be No. 1 in customer satisfaction.

But competition is intense among all the world’s automakers, and clinching the top-selling automaker crown is not taken lightly.

By region, Toyota’s first-quarter sales grew in Japan as consumers rushed to buy ahead of a rise in the sales tax, which kicked in April 1. Its sales also grew in the rest of Asia, the Middle East, South America and Africa, according to Toyota.

General Motors, which has an Allen County truck plant, had been the No. 1-selling automaker for more than seven decades before losing the title to Toyota in 2008.

GM retook the sales crown in 2011, when Toyota’s production was hurt by an earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan. But the maker of the Prius hybrid, Camry sedan and Lexus luxury model made a comeback in 2012 and kept that lead in 2013.

GM’s image has taken a hit after a February recall of 2.6 million vehicles for defective ignition switches, which are linked to 13 deaths.

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