Toyota Motor on Friday said the most recent sales data show that it came second in global vehicle sales in 2003, climbing past Ford for the first time, Dow Jones reported.

Toyota reportedly said its vehicle sales by registration in 2003 are estimated at 6.78 million vehicles, up 9.9%, while Ford said Thursday its sales for the year slipped 3.6% to 6.72 million vehicles.

Those numbers demonstrate the increasing competitiveness of Toyota and other Japanese automakers against the Big Three automakers in the US market, the report noted.

According to Dow Jones, even global sales leader General Motors, whose sales exceeded eight million vehicles in 2003, lost its some of its share of the US market, declining to 28.0% from 28.3%.

“We’re not aiming for any specific sales ranking,” a Toyota spokesman told the news agency, adding the US Big Three are still larger than Toyota if their group sales include those of affiliates.

Sales figures of Toyota and Ford include vehicles sold by the parent company and subsidiaries. Sales by group companies in which the parent holds less than 50% are not counted, the spokesman reportedly said.

Sales by Mazda, 33.4%-owned by Ford, are not included in Ford’s sales results, Dow Jones noted.

“If you look at the Ford group in a broader sense, including Mazda’s numbers can easily push up its sales” by one million units, the Toyota official told the news agency.

Toyota reportedly said it is often difficult to make direct comparisons of sales figures of Japanese and US manufacturers because Japanese companies define sales as the number of vehicles sold by dealers and registered by retail customers, while the US sales data are on a wholesale basis.

The difference between the wholesale and registration numbers depends on various factors at each company, Toyota said, according to Dow Jones.