General Motors is poised to reclaim the title of world's biggest automaker from Toyota this year. GM has stronger sales in the U.S. and China. Japan's earthquake has curbed Toyota's car production. That will leave some customers unable to find the cars they want and prompt them to look at other brands.
THE NUMBERS: GM held the title of world's largest automaker by sales for 76 years until losing it to Toyota in 2008. But GM came out of bankruptcy protection in 2009 leaner and with a host of new vehicles. GM sold 8.39 million cars and trucks globally last year, just 30,000 short of Toyota's sales.
THE REASONS: GM is making better stuff. It finally has decent small cars. Other new products are selling well, especially in the U.S. and China, the world's top two auto markets. While GM gains, Toyota struggles. The company said Friday that factory production worldwide won't return to normal until at least November. The company has been battered by the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March. Also, Toyota hasn't gotten past a series of embarrassing safety recalls that have hurt its reputation for quality.
THE PREDICTION: GM last year was only a day's worth of sales behind Toyota. With Toyota losing 260,000 or more units of production already, it's almost certain that GM will retake the rank of No. 1 by sales.