Toyota Motor Corporation (NYSE:TM) has once again become the world’s largest automaker by outselling General Motors Company (NYSE:GM)  in 2012, which  sold 9.29 million cars and trucks last year. Though it’s still counting, the Japanese company sold 9.7 million vehicles in the same period.

Toyota logo

The sale of both companies surged, but the growth rate of Toyota far outpaced that of General Motors, as the Japanese firm launched the latest versions of its popular cars like Camry. Toyota sales jumped 22 percent last year, compared to just 2.9 percent for General Motors. Both companies expect sales growth in 2013. The automakers have publicly stated that they don’t really care about the No.1 spot, but admit that the crown does boost employee morale.

General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) was the world’s biggest automaker for over seven decades before it lost the title to Toyota Motor Corporation (NYSE:TM) in 2008. GM regained the top spot in 2011, when tsunami and earthquake in Japan and flood in Thailand forced Toyota to shut down its factories temporarily. Toyota dealers were left with few cars to sell. But the company recovered from the disaster within just one year.

Analysts expect Toyota Motor Corporation (NYSE:TM) to maintain the lead in 2013, and also roll out its new Corolla. Another rival of General Motors is Volkswagen AG (PINK:VLKAY) (PINK:VLKPY), which has ambitions of becoming the world’s largest automaker by 2018. The German automaker sold 9.07 million vehicles in 2012, an 11 percent increase over its 2011 sales figures. The U.S. sales of VW grew a record 34 percent, due to stronger sales of Jetta and Passat.

However, auto experts believe that GM will remain the second largest automaker in 2013 despite VW’s robust growth. It’s because Europe is the biggest market of Volkswagen AG (PINK:VLKAY) (PINK:VLKPY), where auto sales are falling amid weak economies and record high unemployment rates.

GM is undergoing a major transformation, and the company is expected to bounce back in 2013. Shares of General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) were down 1.48 percent to $29.91.