Japanese auto giant Toyota on Thursday played down its demotion from top spot in the world carmakers' league after US firm General Motors said it sold 9.03 million vehicles in 2011.
Toyota had been the world's biggest carmaker since 2008, the year GM almost collapsed and the global financial crisis forced it to turn to the US government for a bailout.
GM went on to file for bankruptcy in 2009 but has since recovered, returning to the stock market in November and selling 9.03 million vehicles globally in 2011, up 7.6 percent from the previous year.
Toyota's production was badly hit by both the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March and floods in Thailand, and its total worldwide group sales are forecast to come in down six percent at 7.9 million vehicles.
If confirmed that will see Toyota slip to third place behind Germany's Volkswagen, which has said it sold 8.15 million vehicles during the year, up 14 percent from 2010.
But Toyota spokeswoman Amiko Tomita said following GM's announcement: "Sales are important, to be first is important, but that's not the most important thing for us.
"Our priority number one is to make cars people love, and not to be the first in the world.
"As a result, if we are first, it's a good thing, but our priority number one is to make good cars. We don't chase numbers," she told AFP.
The Japanese firm, which had long enjoyed a reputation for reliability, has had to recall millions of vehicles in recent years over a series of technical problems, including defective braking systems.
Nonetheless it is hoping for a bumper 2012 both at home and abroad, setting ambitious sales and production targets, including a rise of more than a fifth in Toyota and Lexus brand sales.
In turn Volkswagen is aiming to become the biggest automaker by 2018.