Toyota back No. 1 automaker by sales volume image

Toyota Motor Corp. is back on track, regaining the crown as the world’s top carmaker from General Motors after selling 4.97 million vehicles globally in the first half of the year.

The Japanese company sold about 300,000 more cars and trucks than GM did in the first half of the year, a lead large enough that it will be difficult for GM to catch Toyota in the final six months of 2012.

Both companies have said in the past that they don’t care about the global sales leadership and are focusing on making profits. But the crown is a matter of corporate pride for both automakers.

Germany’s hard-charging Volkswagen AG followed in third place with global sales of 4.52 million vehicles. That figure includes sales of its truck-making subsidiaries MAN and Scania but not Porsche, whose results will be consolidated into VW’s next month.

“Keep in mind Toyota’s sales may be stronger in the first half of 2012 than the second half because they are still recovering from the impact of the tsunami last year and re- stocking dealerships, pulling in consumers who may have waited,” Rebecca Lindland, an industry analyst with IHS Automotive, said yesterday in an e-mail.

General Motors, with about 9 million vehicles sold last year, was the world’s biggest carmaker followed by Germany’s Volkswagen with more than 8 million vehicles sold. Toyota sold 7.95 million vehicles.

For all of 2012, Toyota said it expected to sell 9.58 million units worldwide, but it was uncertain whether it could retain the global top spot for the full year.