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by Tim Beissmann

General Motors and Volkswagen are well clear of Toyota in the global sales race after the first six months of 2011.

GM’s global sales increased 8.9 per cent over the first half of 2010 to 4.53 million units, while Volkswagen jumped into second position with 4.13 million vehicle sales.

Toyota trails behind on 3.71 million, leaving it some 820,000 units adrift of GM and 420,000 behind Volkswagen, according to sales results published by Bloomberg.

Production at Toyota City in Japan was 23 per cent down on the first half of 2010 following the earthquake and tsunami disaster in March that disrupted vehicle production and supply around the world.

Industry analysts expect Toyota to still trail GM and Volkswagen at the end of 2011. Toyota is hopeful of returning to pre-disaster sales levels over the next few months, and plans to increase production by 350,000 units between October 2011 and March 2012 in an attempt to offset some of the year’s losses.

Volkswagen has set its sights on selling 7.56 million vehicles in 2011 (representing a five per cent increase over last year), on its way to a planned 10 million vehicles by 2018.