Toyota topped General Motors in global auto sales in 2006, according to a review by trade journal Automotive News that pared GM's tally...

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Toyota topped General Motors in global auto sales in 2006, according to a review by trade journal Automotive News that pared GM’s tally by more than 400,000 vehicles sold in China.

GM sold 8.68 million cars and trucks last year, compared with Toyota’s 8.81 million, Automotive News said Monday. The magazine cut 420,140 vehicles from GM’s count of 9.09 million because they were sold in China under the Wuling brand by SAIC-GM-Wuling Automotive, a venture in which GM owns 34 percent.

“We only credit companies with sales from operations that are at least 50 percent owned or where the product is clearly sold with a company’s brand and design,” Anne Wright Curtis, who led Automotive News’ data review, said in an interview.

The race between Toyota and GM is being watched closely because some analysts say Toyota will grab the global sales lead in 2007 from its Detroit-based rival, which has held the title for 76 years. Toyota outsold GM last quarter.

John McDonald, a GM spokesman, declined to comment on the Automotive News report. Mira Sleilati, a spokeswoman in New York for the North American operations of Toyota, also declined to discuss the sales review.

“Being No. 1 in sales is not a focus of the company. It’s not what we’re aiming for,” Sleilati said. “Sales and volume is a reflection of consumer choice, and we want to be No. 1 with consumers.”

Toyota dwarfs GM financially, with a stock-market value of $224 billion compared with GM’s $18 billion. Toyota posted net income of 1.64 trillion yen ($14 billion) in its last fiscal year, while GM had a loss of $1.98 billion.

Global sales calculations can vary because countries such as China and Indonesia require foreign brands to have local partners, blurring the question of who gets credit for sales. Also, some forecasters include only light- and medium-duty vehicles, leaving out the heavy trucks counted by automakers.

J.D. Power & Associates estimates GM sold 8.3 million vehicles last year, compared with 8.06 million for Toyota. J.D. Power doesn’t count heavy trucks, eliminating most of the sales for Toyota’s Hino brand, analyst Jeff Schuster said in an e-mailed message.