GM chief executive Rick Wagoner has said his company has room for growth worldwide and will forcefully defend its title as the world's top vehicle maker despite the threat from Toyota.

"I like being No. 1, and I think our people take pride in it," he told the Associated Press (AP) during a group interview at GM's headquarters in Detroit, adding: "It's not something we're going to sit back and let somebody else pass us by."

AP noted that Toyota last month announced a global production target of 9.42m vehicles for 2008, increasing the odds that it will surpass GM. That would easily exceed the 9.2m vehicles GM is estimated to have produced in 2006.

Wagoner reportedly wouldn't reveal the company's 2007 production targets, but said GM has the capacity to build more than 9.42m cars worldwide. The company will fight for every sale, he told AP, but will stay within its strategy to rely on quality products to make money and less on selling cars and trucks with incentives.

If Toyota does pass GM, Wagoner said he would not be pleased, according to the report.

"It won't be a happy day for me, but I've lost basketball games before in my life. You get ready and you learn and you go back the next day, and that's what we'll do," he told the Associated Press. "We're going to fight to keep the position, and if one day we lose it, we'll fight to get it back."

The report said GM cut production last year as high fuel prices hit sales of its large pickup trucks and SUVs, but the automaker is launching multiple new products and Wagoner said the North American market should be healthier this year.

Toyota, with a better mix of cars and trucks, capitalized on the consumer shift and raised its market share by two percentage points last year, passing DaimlerChrysler for the first time to become the third largest vehicle seller in the US, AP said.

But spokesman Irv Miller told the news agency Toyota isn't concerned about becoming No. 1 globally and is working to keep its quality high, focus on customers and roll out its new Tundra full-sized pickup truck.

"A perceived sales challenge for global leadership is not something we're even thinking about," Miller reportedly said.