General Motors reclaimed its title as the world's biggest automaker Thursday, successfully emerging from its 2009 bankruptcy woes to overtake German giant Volkswagen and Japanese Toyota in the race to the top.
The US giant sold 9.03 million vehicles globally in 2011, up 7.6% from a year ago, as it cashed in on a recovery in the north American market which delivered a 11.4% sales jump to 2.9 million.
The carmaker also posted strong results elsewhere, with European sales up 4.4% and 3.9% in South America.
Its best-selling marque Chevrolet posted record sales of 4.75 million units, making up almost half of the global total.
The results marked GM's sharp U-turn from near demise in 2008, when the global financial crisis forced it to turn to the US government for a bailout.
In June 2009, it filed for bankruptcy which allowed it to change labour contracts and dump brands, dealers, workers and plants in the process.
It emerged from bankruptcy much leaner and more focused, and in November returned to the stock exchange in a share offering that raised a massive $23.1 billion, helping it to pay back half of its government debt.
As GM's fate began to change for the better, its Japanese rival Toyota, which had roared ahead during GM's difficult years to take top spot among the world's biggest automakers, began to see woes piling up.
In the last two years, the Japanese giant suffered the double whammy of massive vehicle recalls and then last March's devastating earthquake and tsunami in its home country.
Reputed for its well-made family sedans, Toyota's reputation took a dent in 2010 when it was forced to recall more than nine million cars in the world over diverse technical problems, including defective braking systems.
The year 2011 brough an earthquake and tsunami in Japan that badly hindered production for several months in the archipelago and abroad.
Floods in Thailand at year-end added to its problems, as factories in its key southeast Asian manufacturing base were disrupted.
As a result, its 2011 sales including for luxury brand Lexus, fell to 7.0 million units, down 6.0%, according to provisional data released at the end of December.
Including the Hino and Daihatsu units, Toyota's overall sales came in at 7.9 million units.
If confirmed, the firm would be relegated to third place, behind Volkswagen.
The German giant which owns brands including Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini has said it sold 8.15 million vehicles during the year, up 14% from 2010.
It is aiming to become the biggest automaker by 2018.
But Toyota is planning to give both its rivals a run for their money, with a sales target for Toyota and Lexus vehicles of 8.48 million vehicles in 2012 and nearly nine million by 2013.