TOKYO (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp. said worldwide sales climbed 3 percent in the first nine months as the carmaker battles Volkswagen Group to be the global No. 1.
Worldwide deliveries for Toyota, including its Hino Motors Ltd. and Daihatsu Motor Co. units, climbed to 7.6 million vehicles through September, spokesman Dion Corbett said. Volkswagen reported group sales rose 5 percent to 7.4 million vehicles, excluding results for its two heavy-truck units.
Third-placed General Motors Co. said its sales rose 2 percent to 7.37 million in the same period.
The tight race between global giants is playing out as automakers, their customers and regulators contend with mounting recalls and rising scrutiny over the safety of vehicles. The industrywide struggle with defective cars poses risk to both Toyota and VW, which are benefiting from increasing demand in the China and U.S. markets.
"It's a fantastic race, with their strengths coming in different parts of the world," James Chao, a Shanghai-based director at IHS Automotive, said. "You see the U.S. coming back quite strongly for Toyota, and then you see the great engine of growth for Volkswagen being China, which is continuing to perform."
President Akio Toyoda told shareholders the company was "advancing into uncharted territory" in the annual report the Japanese carmaker released last month. Toyoda, 58, noted the unprecedented milestone of selling more than 10 million vehicles worldwide last year, a mark both his company and Volkswagen are on pace to exceed again in 2014.
The industry is selling record numbers of vehicles globally as crises involving auto safety swirl. Airbags made by Takata Corp. are linked to at least four deaths and more than 30 injuries in the U.S. after the safety devices deployed with too much force, spraying metal shrapnel at occupants. U.S. authorities have begun an investigation and almost 8 million cars made by 10 automakers have been recalled to fix the hazard.
In the U.S., GM faces death claims that could rise into next year involving defective ignition switches. The company has confirmed 29 fatalities tied to the flaw, which it failed to fix after more than a decade.
Toyota deliveries in the U.S. market increased 6 percent through September, paced by a 26 percent surge in sales of its RAV4 SUV.
Volkswagen is benefiting from rising demand for its Audi luxury vehicles, driven by the Q5 SUV and long-wheelbase version of the A6 sedan.
The Q5 is ranked eight among the top 10 best-selling SUVs in the Chinese market in the first nine months of this year, according to data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. VW Group claimed four of the nation's 10 top-selling sedans during the same period, which included the Jetta and Santana models.
VW Group's overall China sales were up 15 percent to 2.72 million vehicles through nine months.