Toyota is likely to end General Motors' 81-year run as top global car maker next year after announcing it expects group production worldwide to rise 4% to 9.42m vehicles in 2007, after a 10% rise to 9.04m this year.

In contrast, industry analysts see GM making around 9.2m vehicles this year with no expansion plans for 2007. It is in fact in the process of axing 30,000 jobs and several factories by 2008 while Toyota has plans for six more factories world-wide by the end of the decade. It has just opened a new large pickup truck plant in Texas and a Camry plant is under construction in Russia.

The Japanese automaker expects global sales to rise 6% to 9.34m in 2007 (8.8m, +8% in 2006) with a 1% rise to 2.39m in Japan and overseas sales up 6% to 6.95m. This year's domestic sales are seen up 1% to 2.38m while overseas sales will be up 12% to 6.42m.

Exports from Japan should rise 3% to 2.79m compared with a 24% rise to 2.72m this year.

The New York Times reported this week that Ford is likely to lose its second-place sales slot to Toyota early in 2007.

"Toyota has all the factors necessary to become the world's No. 1 automaker,'' Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management analyst Atsushi Osa in Tokyo told Bloomberg News. "It has expansion plans, the right products and their vehicles are popular."

Separating the key Toyota brand from small car specialist Daihatsu and truck maker Hino, the automaker sees worldwide production up 4% to 8.47m in 2007 (2006: 8.12m, +12%) with exports from Japan up 3% to 2.61m (2.53m, +25%).

Worldwide sales are projected up 6% to 8.4m (7.91bn, +9%) with domestic sales rising 1% to 1.72m (1.71m, 0%) and overseas sales up 8% to 6.68m (6.2m, 12%).

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