DETROIT — After finishing second by a whisker in 2007 sales, Toyota took the global sales lead from General Motors in the first quarter, capitalizing on growth in China and Europe as GM saw its North American sales drag down gains in other markets.
Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it sold 2.41-million vehicles in the January-March period, compared with GM's 2.25-million, prompting one industry analyst to predict that 2008 will be the year Toyota unseats GM in global sales.
Toyota, which also outsold GM in the January-March period last year but could not sustain the lead, reported steady demand in Asia and strong demand in Europe, while GM said it had record sales in its regions outside North America.
The sales numbers didn't surprise GM. Mike DiGiovanni, the company's executive director of global markets and industry analysis, said GM is more focused on turning around its North American operations and becoming profitable worldwide than it is on beating Toyota.
GM said it posted record sales in three of its four regions, but a 10 percent drop in North America pulled down the overall numbers. Sales were up 8 percent outside North America, GM said.
Toyota's U.S. sales weren't hurt as badly by the economic downturn as GM's were, dropping only 5.6 percent for the quarter, compared with GM's 10.9 percent decline, according to Autodata Corp.
GM on Wednesday issued a more pessimistic forecast in the United States than it had previously, predicting that record high gas prices could drive second-quarter sales below first-quarter levels.