DETROIT: In a contest reflecting this year's nailbiting Formula One championship, the race between auto titans General Motors and Toyota Motor for the 2007 global sales Grand Prix is still led by the US firm, following its Japanese rival's longer-than-scheduled Q3 pitstop.

Toyota saw US sales fall 5% in the three months to the end of September, compared with the same period last year.

GM suffered similar disappointment on domestic dealer lots, but solid Q3 sales in emerging markets such as South America and the Middle East allowed it to pull ahead.

Despite GM's lead through the first nine months, Toyota remains confident it can win the trophy at the year end's chequered flag.

The Japanese firm has blamed its summer slump on slower sales of its ageing Corolla compact, and on its Scion marque, which is revving-up for a revamp.

In addition, Toyota has been slowed by top level executive defections in recent months, as well as the US credit squeeze and rising gasoline prices.

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff