A little over a year ago, Volkswagen passed Ford as the third-largest automaker in the world.
But now, by adding recently acquired Porsche's sales figures into the totals — which also include those for Bentley, Audi, Skoda, Seat and Lamborghini — the German behemoth has shot past Toyota to take over the crown as the world's largest automaker.
With 4.4 million cars built so far in 2009, VW has passed Toyota by about 400,000 cars.
Industry analysts attribute VW's surge to cutting production in half earlier this year, the closing of all its plants in February and Toyota's weakness in the cash-for-clunker programs in Europe, Brazil and China.
There's still some time until the final numbers get tallied at the end of December. And Toyota is expected to build more than seven million cars this year.
But as of now, VW officials can put the champagne on ice.
Volvo releases photos
of S60 sedan
Ahead of its official debut at next year's Geneva auto show, Volvo has released a couple of exterior images of its new S60 sedan.
The new S60 is Volvo's latest attempt to grab entry-level luxury customers who currently prefer BMW's 3 Series, the Audi A4 or the Mercedes-Benz C Class.
When the Belgium-made S60 goes on sale in Canada closer to the vehicle's launch in the second half of 2010, expect the usual five- and six-cylinder gas engines.
But the S60 may also come with a 180 hp 1.6-litre four-banger with direct-injection and turbo-charging, badged the GTDi.
Of course, the S60 is still a Volvo.
Expect a phalanx of safety features, including Pedestrian Detection (a safety technology that can detect pedestrians in front of the car and then brake automatically if the driver does not react in time), as well as the City Safety low-speed vehicle avoidance system first seen on the XC60 crossover.
Buick Regal coming back in 2010
Already being sold in China, the Buick Regal is coming back to North America in 2010 as a 2011 model.
First seen as a mid-size "personal luxury car" in 1973, Buick has used the Regal badge on various vehicles since then.
The last was the 2004 predecessor of today's LaCrosse/Allure.
But the newest incarnation is targeted at a more sophisticated crowd.
Fitted with an optional turbocharged four-cylinder, a driver-selectable suspension system and what parent Gneral Motors calls a "European-tuned" chassis, the 2011 Regal is targeted at import sport sedans like the Audi A4, Acura TSX and Volvo S60.
Buick isn't being shy in telling us the Regal is heavily based on the Opel Insignia, the 2009 European Car of the Year.
The base Regal engine will be a 182 hp, 2.4-litre four. A 220 hp, 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder will be optional.
GM excited about extended-range hybrids
Just months after extricating itself from bankruptcy, General Motors is acting bullish about its extended-range hybrid vehicles.
Reports this week suggested that GM will build not only a production version of the Cadillac Converj hybrid coupe concept (last seen at January's Detroit auto show) but also a seemingly oxymoronic "performance" version of the yet-to-be-released Chevrolet Volt hybrid.
According to The Detroit News, the Converj will "probably" take a few years until it hits showrooms. The reality is that GM needs to get the Volt in showrooms next year, first.
GM vice-chairman Bob Lutz also said he wouldn't discount the possibility of a high-performance Volt SS. “If we want to sacrifice a little bit of fuel efficiency in the interest of performance and still get over 200 miles per gallon, we can do that any time.''
Ford nixes sale of two cars
Contrary to the recent stream of new-car announcements, Ford has confirmed that two vehicles speculated for North America will not be heading our way.
The Detroit-based automaker said it will not sell the Ford Ka city car or the global Ford Ranger pickup (developed in Australia for worldwide markets) in Canada or the U.S.
Currently on sale in foreign markets, the Ka is smaller than the Ford Fiesta that will go on sale in Canada next year.
"Our view is that Fiesta is about the smallest vehicle that we think will be a real success in the United States," Ford CEO Allan Mulally told Automotive News.
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