The global auto sales downturn has been as painful as it's been swift, but a report from Yomiuri shows that the worst of times may be over. The Japanese news agency (via Automotive News) reports that Toyota has raised its vehicle production forecast upwards by 3% to 6.5 million units. That's still a far cry from Toyota's amazing 2008, yet the positive adjustment is still worth over 300,000 units of additional production.

That's welcome news to Toyota's manufacturing facilities around the world, as the drop in sales in the first half of 2009 left the Japanese automaker with far too much inventory. With the upward revision of production for the rest of the year, factories could be running more steadily.

While Toyota appears to be back on the upswing, it's facing renewed pressure from General Motors for the top spot in global sales. In the first half of 2009, GM closed the gap in overall production to only 11,000 units versus Toyota, a far cry from the 274,000 unit differential in the first half of 2008. GM, which struggled more than most in the US during the first half of the year, had far stronger results in emerging markets like China and South America, with overall sales down 21% versus 2008. Toyota's sales dipped 26% during the same period. Volkswagen also made a big jump compared to Toyota, as the German automaker's sales dropped only 5.1% in the first half of the year. VW is now within 500,000 units of Toyota during the first six months of the year.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]