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With a 10.8 per cent downturn in worldwide sales last year General Motors has had to admit that after 77 years it can no longer claim to be the world’s largest car maker.

In an admission that will gladden some and bring despondency to others the huge US car maker said its worldwide sales fell to 8.36 million units in 2008, putting it about 616,000 units behind the 8.97 million units reported yesterday by Toyota Motor Corporation.

The 2008 results cap an advance by Toyota that has seen the Japanese car maker overcome a three million-unit deficit since the start of the decade, fuelled in large part by gains in the United States.

Last year, both companies posted sales declines, including huge ones in the US market.
GM spokesman, John McDonald, said that in future GM would describe itself as “one of the world’s largest automakers.”

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GM Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson said that retaining the title wasn’t “terribly important,” to him. He said that it was more critical that GM, which hasn’t posted a profit since 2004 and has tapped US$4 billion in government loans to pay its bills, was strong financially.

Toyota said its sales across the group fell four per cent in 2008, dragged down by sharp declines in North America, Europe and Japan.

Don Esmond, senior vice president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, said the title means little to him, especially in a year that saw both companies losing sales.

GM fell 21.1 per cent in North America, the biggest of its four sales regions, and 6.5 per cent in its number two market, Europe.

The company gained 3.2 per cent in its Latin America, Africa, Middle East region, for a fifth straight record, and 2.7 per cent in the Asia-Pacific territory, which includes Australia.






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