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[TOKYO] Toyota sold 10.23 million vehicles last year, it said Wednesday, outpacing General Motors and Volkswagen to remain the world's biggest automaker, but a shaky outlook for 2015 could see it lose the title to its German rival.
The record worldwide annual sales figure beat Volkswagen, which logged sales of 10.14 million vehicles, and US-based GM, which said it sold 9.92 million cars last year.
But Toyota also said sales would decline this year to an expected 10.15 million vehicles, which would likely see it fall behind those of Volkswagen which is riding momentum in emerging economies that could see it take the lead in global auto sales for the first time.
Toyota broke GM's decades-long reign as world's top automaker in 2008 but lost the crown three years later as Japan's quake-tsunami disaster hammered production and disrupted the supply chains of the country's automakers.
However, in 2012 it once again overtook its Detroit rival, which sells the Chevrolet and luxury Cadillac brands.
Toyota boosted its fiscal year through March profit forecast to 2.0 trillion yen (US$16.97 billion), and said revenue would come in at 26.5 trillion yen, as it saw strong results in North America while a sharply weaker yen inflated its bottom line.
But it earlier warned over a downturn in some other key Asian markets including Indonesia and Thailand, which has been hammered by political unrest.
There are also growing fears about the entire industry's prospects in China owing to concerns about the health of the world's number-two economy.
Toyota's upbeat announcement on Wednesday comes despite the firm struggling to recover its reputation for safety after the recall of millions of cars around the world for various problems, including an exploding air bag crisis at supplier Takata.
The maker of the Camry sedan and Prius hybrid has decided to freeze the building of new plants for the three years until early 2016, and a Toyota executive at the Detroit auto show this month told AFP that the giant automaker is emphasising quality of sales rather than volume.