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GMs sales falls. Toyota is now the worlds largest

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General Motors said worldwide sales fell 10.8 percent in 2008, ending its 77-year claim as the world's largest automaker.

GM sold 8.36 million vehicles last year, putting it about 616,000 units behind the 8.97 million reported by Toyota Motor Corp. Tuesday.

The 2008 results cap an advance by Toyota that has seen the Japanese automaker overcome a 3 million deficit since the start of the decade, fueled in large part by gains in the United States. In 2008, both automakers posted sales declines.

At the time of the announcement, just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, GM defined itself on its Web site as "the annual global industry sales leader for 77 years.''

GM President Fritz Henderson had said the previous evening that retaining the title wasn't "terribly important," to him. He told the Automotive News World Congress last night that it's more critical that GM, which hasn't posted a profit since 2004, is strong financially.

Toyota said its sales across the group fell 4 percent in 2008, dragged down by sharp declines in North America, Europe and Japan.

The figure was in line with Toyota's previous forecasts, as car sales worldwide plunged in the final quarter amid a financial crisis that forced most car companies to slash production.

For the parent only, which excludes minivehicle maker Daihatsu Motor Co. and truck unit Hino Motors Ltd., sales fell 5 percent to 7.996 million vehicles, Toyota said. Sales at the two units rose from 2007.

In the United States, the single-biggest market for both automakers, GM tumbled 22.7 percent last year, while Toyota was down 15.4 percent.

As of 2007, Automotive News ranked Toyota No. 1. In that year, GM included 516,435 Wuling brand vehicles in its global tally. But GM owns only 34 percent of the Chinese company that builds Wuling products, SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co. Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. owns

50.1 percent.

Automotive News counts only sales of majority-owned subsidiaries in an automaker's global total.


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