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Associated Press
Shoppers peruse Lexus cars at a Tokyo showroom. Toyota is again the world’s top automaker with 2012 global sales of 9.748 million vehicles.

Toyota in driver’s seat with record ’12 sales

– Now it’s official: Toyota is once again the world’s top automaker.

Toyota Motor Corp. released its tally for global vehicle sales for last year Monday at a record 9.748 million vehicles – a bigger number than the estimate it gave last month of about 9.7 million vehicles.

It was already clear Toyota had dethroned General Motors Co. as the Detroit-based automaker fell short, selling 9.29 million vehicles.

GM had been the top-selling automaker for more than seven decades before losing the title to Toyota in 2008.

GM retook the sales crown in 2011, when Toyota’s production was hurt by the quake and tsunami in northeast Japan.

The latest results show Toyota’s powerful comeback.

Global vehicle sales for the maker of the Camry sedan, Prius hybrid and Lexus luxury model surged nearly 23 percent from the previous year. Overseas sales jumped 19 percent, while sales in Japan, where the economy has been troubled, recovered a whopping 35 percent.

Volkswagen AG of Germany, the world’s No. 3 automaker, sold a record 9.1 million vehicles.

All three automakers play down the significance of the sales ranking and say they are focused on making attractive products.

“Rather than going after numbers, we hope to make fine products, one by one, to keep out customers satisfied. The numbers are just a result of our policy. And our policy will continue unchanged,” Toyota spokeswoman Shino Yamada said.

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