The race between Volkswagen and Toyota for No. 1 in global auto sales is going down to the wire in 2014, with the outcome to be decided in China and the United States.
VW Group has narrowed the gap in nine-month worldwide sales with first-place Toyota Motor Corp.
Last week, Toyota said sales climbed 3 percent in the first nine months to 7.62 million vehicles, including its Hino Motors and Daihatsu units. VW Group's deliveries through September, including Porsche and Audi and MAN and its Scania heavy-truck units, trailed Toyota's by 72,000 vehicles, according to Bloomberg. That compares with a 227,000 gap between the two companies a year earlier.
Third-place General Motors said sales rose 2 percent to 7.37 million in the same period.
"It's a fantastic race, with their strengths coming in different parts of the world," James Chao, an IHS Automotive director in Shanghai, told Bloomberg. "You see the U.S. coming back quite strongly for Toyota, and then you see the great engine of growth for Volkswagen being China, which is continuing to perform."
Commerzbank analyst Sascha Gommel said: The winner "will depend on whether growth in China or the U.S. softens first."
Toyota eclipsed GM as global sales leader in 2008, but GM took back the lead in 2011 after Japan's earthquake and tsunami disrupted local production.
Toyota regained the top spot in 2012 and held on in 2013.
Toyota has projected sales of 10.2 million for 2014, a level never before achieved by a carmaker. Volkswagen moved past GM into second place in the first half of 2014 and clung to the lead in the third quarter despite GM's best third-quarter global sales since 1980.