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Falling sales in Japan and China hurting Toyota. GM or VW may pass it.

Toyota held onto its status as the world's top-selling automaker in the first quarter of this year, although the three-way race with General Motors and Volkswagen is proving tight, as The Japanese automaker's sales fall in China and Japan.

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Conventional wisdom might tell you that Toyota should have lost loads of money last quarter in the wake of the company's largest-ever global recall and safety scandal. Perhaps it shouldn't surprise us too much to hear that conventional wisdom would be all wrong. In reality, Toyota reported a profit between January and March of this year of $1.2 billion.

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If it ain't broken, don't fix it. The Detroit News is reporting that Toyota will continue offering its current sales incentives through April. And why not? Those deals helped boost sales some 40 percent in March, and after the dip in sales that resulted from its headline-hogging recalls, Toyota is anxious to keep sales rolling. Somebody has to pay for that $16 million fine the government is collecting, so more sales are always a good thing.

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Despite pulling in the reins on production facilities in the U.S. and Europe, Toyota says it's on track to topple its sales figures for this time last year. According to Jim Lentz, President of Toyota Motor Sales, by the time all the numbers come in for March, sales should be up 30-35 percent over 2009, even with the negative impact from the company's recall bombardment.

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Toyota Yaris 5-Door Liftback (UK market) – Click above for a high-res image gallery

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As Toyota's recall issues hit a fevered pitch over the past few months, customer confidence faltered and sales predictably suffered. We were wondering how Toyota would react to the comparative dearth of showroom traffic, and the answer was to take a page out of the domestic's tattered handbook: big-time incentives.

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2010 Ford Fusion Sport – Click above for high-res image gallery

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We'll have our By the Numbers report for January sales ready in about an hour, but in the meantime, we thought you'd like to know how Toyota sales fared considering, well... everything that's going on. As you can see from the chart below, sales in January for both Toyota Motor Company and the Toyota brand itself were down versus January 2009 – 16 percent and nearly 19 percent, respectively (all percentages reflect the change in total volume and do not take into account that there were two

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Toyota has announced that it will halt sales of eight models due to its ongoing problems with unintended acceleration. The hot-selling Prius hybrid is not included in the sales suspension, though the Camry and Highlander (we'll update when we hear if this also *UPDATE: The sales stoppage does not include the Camry and Highlander Hybrids) are on the list.

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var digg_url = 'http://digg.com/autos/Toyota_temporarily_halts_sales_of_selected_models'; Toyota has announced that it will halt sales of eight models due to its ongoing problems with unintended acceleration. At issue are accelerator pedal mechanisms that could get stuck in the open position due to wear, causing the vehicle to accelerate uncontrollably. Earlier this month, Toyota announced a recall of 2.3 million vehicles with the possible defect.

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There have been subtle signs that demand for new cars and trucks are improving. Several automakers plan to increase production over the next few months, and Toyota is no different. Reuters is reporting that the World's Largest Automaker has raised its sales forecast by 3% to 6.7 million units for the year ending March 2010. Toyota is also reportedly looking to increase production by a not-so-subtle 8% to a total of 6.45 million units. Toyota is neither confirming or denying the report, which ori

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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.

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Auto sales in 2009 have been a real stinker, but companies are starting to feel a bit more bullish about the immediate future of the industry. Earlier this week, Ford announced that it was bumping Q3 production by 10%, and now Toyota is getting more aggressive still by adding 65,000 units to its Q2 quota. The Aishi, Japan-based automaker plans to add production to its most popular models. The Camry, Corolla, Sienna, Tundra, Tacoma and Rav4 are all going to see more action during the summer month

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With April's sales volume down over 41% and Ford pushing it aside in the numbers race, the Toyota division is motivated to move units in May. At the request of dealers, the automaker is boosting production of its best-selling Toyota Camry and popular RAV4 SUV. In addition, a new ad campaign, called "Perfect Timing," started on Friday. It is an attempt to boost sales on vehicles using reduced interest rates, more consumer cash and a focus on low payment leases. The campaign caters to regional nee

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Over the last several years, few automotive stories have held as much interest as the global fight between Toyota and General Motors for worldwide sales supremacy. Don't look now, but there's a new combatant hailing from Germany ready to take the reigns: Volkswagen. However, VW's ascendancy has less to do with the German automaker's output -- GM and Toyota are shedding sales at a much faster rate than VW.

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Quick: Who is the world's largest automaker? General Motors or Toyota? Last year, the two brands were in a statistical dead heat after sales for all of 2007 were tallied, and debates raged as to which one of the two global giants had outsold the other. This year, there's no argument. The winner of the 2008 sales crown was Toyota by over 600,000 units (exact figures are due a bit later). This is quite an accomplishment for the Japanese automaker and reinforces the fact that GM's sales have been i

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Click above for more shots of the Honda FCX Clarity

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Click above for a gallery of 2010 Prius images

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