The Toyota group may become the biggest automaker in the world in 2006, ahead of General Motors, thanks to brisk overseas sales, Kyodo News reported, citing industry data.

Global production by Toyota Motor Corp. and its group companies may reach nine million units in 2006, far above the 8.28 million projected for 2005 and comparable with GM’s output, the report said.

Analysts told the news agency there is even a possibility of Toyota replacing GM as the world’s largest automaker in 2006.

While GM is forecast to roll out 9.13 million vehicles in 2005, it will likely continue to face slower sales especially in the core North American market, Kyodo said.

It noted that Toyota either already has started operating or plans to build new plants in overseas markets, including Thailand and Russia, under its policy of ”producing vehicles where demand exists.”

Overseas production by Toyota may exceed domestic output next year for the first time to top 5 million units within a few years, the news agency said, adding that Toyota is also reinforcing its domestic production capacity as a step to export Lexus luxury cars and sport utility vehicles to Europe and the Middle East.

With those and other aggressive manufacturing and marketing strategies, Toyota hopes to capture 15% of the global market by the early 2010s, Kyodo News said.