Toyotas first-quarter sales rose by more than 6% from the same period the previous year. GMs sales grew 2%, while Volkswagens added nearly 6%.
Toyota finished first last year with a record 9.98 million vehicles in sales, remaining the top-selling automaker for a second year in a row. GM finished second and VW third.
Toyota is targeting sales of more than 10 million vehicles this year. No automaker has sold that many in a year. Toyota officials say being No. 1 is not that important, and they want to be No. 1 in customer satisfaction.
But competition is intense among all the worlds automakers, and clinching the top-selling automaker crown is not taken lightly.
By region, Toyotas first quarter sales grew in Japan as consumers rushed to buy ahead of a rise in the sales tax, which kicked in on April 1. Its sales also grew in the rest of Asia, West Asia, South America and Africa, according to Toyota.
GM had been the No. 1 selling automaker for more than seven decades before losing the title to Toyota in 2008.
GM retook the sales crown in 2011, when Toyotas production was hurt by the quake and tsunami in northeastern Japan. But the maker of the Prius hybrid, Camry sedan and Lexus luxury model made a comeback in 2012, and kept that lead in 2013.
GMs image has taken a hit after a February recall of 2.6 million vehicles for defective ignition switches, a defect the company tied to 13 deaths.
GM and the US government are investigating why it took the company more than a decade to recall the cars after engineers first learned of the switch problems.
Toyota also underwent a massive recall debacle in the US, announcing recall after recall starting in 2009. It paid a $1.2 billion fine earlier this year to settle a US Justice Department investigation into charges of covering up problems that caused unintended acceleration in some cars.
From 2010 through 2012, Toyota paid fines totalling more than $66 million for delays in reporting safety problems. Toyota agreed last year to pay more than $1 billion to owners of its cars who claimed to have suffered economic losses because of the recalls. The company still faces wrongful death and injury lawsuits.
Volkswagen is growing so quickly in China and other relatively new markets it is close on the heels of its two longtime rivals.