Can Volkswagen overtake Toyota as the world's largest automaker, and can they do it by 2018? They plan to try. The details inside.

While General Motors and Ford are trying to lure a few U.S. customers away from Toyota in the midst of Toyota's safety fiasco, Volkswagen is setting more long-term goals.  The German automaker is targetting sales increases to over 10 million units by 2018, according to Bloomberg News.

That would promote VW for the largest passenger vehicle manufacturer in Europe to the largest in the world.  2009 VW sales were up 1.1% to 6.29 million, while Toyota sales dipped to 7.81 million, a 13% drop.

Those numbers, and the future target, is a combined total for VW and many of their brands.  The German automaker owns Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Seat, and Skoda.  The figures do not include Porsche, which will be integrated with Volkswagen in 2011.  Karmann is likely not included as well, as the small manufacturer will not be merged in until 2012.

"With the implementation of 'Strategy 2018,' the Volkswagen group is seeking global economic and environmental leadership in the automotive industry by 2018," a VW statement reportedly said.  The strategy includes extensive cost cutting in effort to create a pretax profit higher than 8% of sales, but will not elminate research and development funding for electric and hybrid vehicles.

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