TOKYO — General Motors outsold Toyota for the first time in six quarters, rising atop the industry and underscoring the resurgence of U.S. automakers as they roll out the best cars they've built in a generation.
The 2.48 million vehicles that Toyota and its subsidiaries sold during the quarter that ended in June, based on monthly figures reported Friday, was shy of the 2.49 million that Detroit-based GM disclosed earlier this month. Toyota stayed ahead of Volkswagen, which sold 2.39 million vehicles last quarter.
GM's rise to the top of the global industry caps a week when Ford and the maker of Chevrolet posted earnings that beat analyst estimates. In contrast, the Japanese automaker saw its deliveries drop, reflecting Toyota's reliance on a home market where demand is falling and underperformance in China, where it's recovering from a consumer backlash.
"The U.S. market this year is coming back but the competition is getting harsher," said Yoshiaki Kawano, an analyst at IHS Automotive in Tokyo. "GM and other U.S. carmakers had the biggest tailwind from the strong U.S. economy. In China, Toyota is recovering but not fully recovered."
Sales in the first six months of this year dropped 1.2 percent to 4.91 million units. GM sold 4.85 million vehicles in the first half and Volkswagen delivered 4.7 million, according to the companies.
Toyota has projected since late December that sales would climb to almost 10 million units — a milestone no automaker has ever breached — in 2013.
Japan's largest manufacturer has an ever bigger buffer in the yen, whose decline has been bolstering the value of Japanese exports. Toyota, which reports earnings Aug. 2, probably saw profit last quarter surge 48 percent to the highest in more than five years, according to the average analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg.
Nissan, which reported a 14 percent increase in profit Thursday, has taken advantage of favorable exchange rates by cutting prices of seven models in the United States, including its top-selling Altima sedan. Nissan, Japan's second-largest carmaker, saw deliveries surge 20 percent last quarter.
Toyota has resisted following Nissan's price cuts and saw its sales in the country rise by 3.7 percent — less than half the pace of the overall industry — and its U.S. market share fell to the lowest in five quarters, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
At GM, 18 new or refreshed vehicles are being brought into showrooms this year, transforming its lineup into one of the market's newest from one of the oldest. One of the earliest new offerings, the 2014 Impala, was rated by Consumer Reports as the best sedan on the market — a first for a General Motors U.S. automaker in at least 20 years.
The product push is part of GM chairman and CEO Daniel F. Akerson's efforts to boost North American profit margins to 10 percent, stem European losses and increase China sales to 5 million, all by mid-decade.
GM on Thursday posted earnings, excluding some items, that beat analysts' estimates, a day after Ford reported higher-than-expected earnings and raised its full-year profit forecast.
In China, where a territorial dispute led to a consumer backlash that cut demand for Japanese products last year, Toyota continued to lose market share to GM and Volkswagen. Toyota's deliveries climbed 0.6 percent last quarter, versus GM's 12 percent and Volkswagen's 16 percent, according to figures reported by the companies.
Still, demand for Japanese products in China, the world's largest auto market, is recovering from last year and Toyota is targeting this year's deliveries to rise to at least 900,000 units, up about 7 percent from 2012.
In Japan, where Toyota accounts for about half of the vehicles sold, deliveries dropped. Sales in the world's third-biggest market have been decreasing since late 2012, after government incentives for purchases of fuel-efficient models expired.
In Europe, where auto demand is slumping to its lowest level in two decades, sales of Toyota and Lexus cars last quarter were little changed from a year earlier, reaching 215,734 units. That helped the company keep its market share at about 4.5 percent.
In 2008, Toyota ended GM's 77-year reign as the world's largest automaker, holding on to the top annual sales spot until 2011, when it surrendered the title after production was disrupted by natural disasters in Japan and Thailand. Sales rebounded in 2012, allowing the Japanese automaker to deliver 9.75 million units and regain its global No. 1 title as the recession receded, while the carmaker added products and was spared from disruptions from natural disasters.