Toyota stays ahead of GM by a small margin - VW Group the world's third largest automaker and plans to be the biggest by 2018 with over 10 million unit sales a year.

Despite the recall woes that plagued the Japanese automaker over the last year, Toyota remains the world's biggest automaker by sales volume for 2010.

Sales for Toyota Motor Corp., including its Lexus brand, were up 8 percent in 2010 over the previous year for a total of 8.42 million unit sales. But it's a small lead over second-place GM, which had a global sales volume of 8.39 million units with a 12 percent increase over 2009.

Toyota's recall problems were mainly contained to the United States and affected sales there - down 0.4 percent to 1.76 million units.

But a rising tide in China saw the automaker increase its sales there by 19 percent there for 2010, though, still trailing GM's 29 percent growth in that market.

Toyota's reign is also threatened by VW Group, which has a plan in place to become the world's largest automaker by 2018 with over 10 million unit sales a year. Volkswagen AG sold 7.14 million units in 2010 with a 14 percent rise over 2009 and came in third in the global race.

GM has no such plan. Happy to be back from its 2009 bankruptcy, the Detroit automaker just wants to improve its position and sell cars that customers want to buy.

"We have to position the company and our products with the customer first. The rest of that is just an outcome," said GM North America president Mark Reuss, responding to a question about the sales race.

Toyota still number one in global sales