Germany's Volkswagen became the world's biggest-selling vehicle maker in the first half of the year, overtaking Toyota for the first time. VW sold 5.04 million cars between January and June - slightly more than the 5.02 million sold by Toyota.
The Japanese company said on Tuesday its sales fell 1.5% compared with 2014, as growth in emerging markets slowed. VW has long aimed to beat Toyota and has done so three years ahead of its 2018 target.
Toyota will announce first-half results on Tuesday next week, while VW releases its figures for the period on Wednesday.
Stefan Bratzel, head of Germany's Center of Automotive Management, said: VW is snatching the sales crown in difficult times with major car markets in decline. They will need to withstand the slowdown in China if they want to keep the top spot.
VW's success has been propelled by soaring sales in China, a market that now accounts for a third of its total, as well as a recovery in Europe.
The company, which also owns Audi and Porsche, this year aims to moderately exceed the 10.1 million cars it sold in 2014.
Toyota sold 10.23 million vehicles in 2014, but expects the total to slip to 10.15 million this year.
General Motors held the global sales crown for more than seven decades until being surpassed by Toyota in 2008. GM regained the top spot in 2011, when Toyota's production was hurt by the earthquake and tsunami in north-eastern Japan.
Toyota became number one again the following year and has held the title since.
In another development, Ford has announced that it sold 3.26 million vehicles globally in the first half of the year.
The US company reported a 10% rise in pre-tax profit to $2.9bn for the three months to 30 June, with revenue coming in about $2bn higher than expected at $37.3bn.
Wholesale sales in North America rose by 56,000 to 816,000 vehicles, where Ford generated the bulk - $2.6bn - of its profits. In Europe, losses were halved to $14m as sales rose by 13,000 to 389,000.
Mark Fields, Ford's chief executive, said: We delivered an outstanding second quarter, a great first half of 2015, and we are confident the second half of the year will be even stronger.