Toyota’s rise to the top remains on track, despit being outsold by GM in the second quarter. Today, Japan’s most profitable company revealed its sales for the first half of 2007 were a record 4.71 million. That’s around 50,000 more sales than of GM and leaves Toyota on course to surpass its U.S. rival as the world’s number one automaker this year. Last year, Toyota sold 8.8 million units to GM’s 9.1 million.

Still, don’t expect Toyota to start crowing just yet. For one thing, its execs are all well versed in explaining why being top dog isn’t that important. “Becoming No. 1 by sales has never been our goal and it’s just a result of what we have been doing,” CEO Toyota Katsuaki Watanabe noted last month. More important, don’t rule out GM clawing back the 50,000 units. Amid strong sales in Europe and Asia, the U.S. automaker outsold Toyota by 40,000 units between April and June after lagging by 90,000 during the first quarter. GM isn’t going to give up 76 years of auto leadership without a fight.

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