Figures from automotive industry analyst IHS Global Insight show that Volkswagen has overtaken Toyota as the world’s largest vehicle producer for the first three-quarters of 2009.

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VW made 4.4 million vehicles from January to September compared to the 4.2 million tallied in Toyota’s recent financial report.

However, Toyota today claimed that it has actually produced 4.9 million vehicles, but offered no explanation for the discrepancy.

Some sources are speculating that the difference could come from counting kit units assembled by Toyota’s affiliates, but there is no clear word yet.

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Either way, VW’s stay at the top is expected to be short-lived, with the Japanese manufacturer known to have slowed production dramatically through the global financial crisis and capable of ramping it up to a 10 million vehicle capacity.

Toyota produced 9.24 million vehicles in 2008 and is expected to make closer to seven million this year.

While VW does not have the capacity to match Toyota, its growth has come through diversifying.

In July, VW sold 128,000 cars in China, nearly one-quarter of its global monthly sales.

by Tim Beissmann