DETROIT: The race to be world number one automaker in 2007 has ended with a photo-finish between General Motors and Toyota Motor.

Analysts and industry experts had expected the Japanese giant to pass the chequered flag first. But GM's sales figures - 9,369,524 cars and trucks during the year - are fractionally ahead of its rival's £9.366 million. The increases are, respectively, 3% and 6% over 2006.

Toyota is now the number two seller in the US, where it shifted 2.62m vehicles during 2007, relegating Ford Motor Company to third place.

GM has seen its domestic market share shrink significantly in recent years, from 7.1m in 1978 to 3.8m last year.

However, it has offset the downturn at home with significant gains in China - where 2007 sales topped one million vehicles - and in Brazil with nearly 500,000. Sales in Russia also doubled.

Toyota is still playing catch-up to GM in the BRIC markets but is aggressively expanding overseas production. It forecasts global sales will grow 5% this year to 9.85m vehicles.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online and Associated Press; additional content by WARC staff