DETROIT: Toyota has finally overtaken General Motors for the top global vehicle sales spot. The Japanese automaker reported that 2.41 million units had been shifted from dealer lots during the first quarter of 2008, while GM's sales slipped 0.6% to 2.25m.

Both companies suffered slides in the US as economic gloom deepens. Toyota saw sales there fall by 4.4%, but other markets offset the drop and overall global sales were up 2.8%, compared with the year earlier period.

GM expects to regain the lead over its Japanese rival later in the year, but chief sales analyst Mike DiGiovanni has warned that higher gasoline costs may still weaken the second quarter numbers.

He added: "The US market is going to be tough; it's a difficult time right now."

GM's bright spot has come from overseas, after an 11% decline in domestic sales during Q1.

In the Asia-Pacific region, sales numbers rose 5.8%; in Latin America they climbed 19%; and in Europe they were up 3.3% during Q1. The company sold 64% of its vehicles outside the US during the January to March period.

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