General Motors and Toyota have long had the first and second-place global sales battle locked up between themselves, but Ford has previously slotted quite comfortably into third place. That appears to be the case no longer, as Volkswagen has announced its first half sales for 2008 outstripped the Blue Oval's by almost 100,000 vehicles, rising to 3.31 million cars delivered.

The sales figure represents a 7.2% increase for VW, which is itself an impressive figure given the tough car market and weak global economy. Ford's 3.22 million sales, though still a solid figure, aren't enough to keep up with the burgeoning German carmaker. Trouble in its home U.S. market with weak SUV and pickup truck sales has been somewhat offset by European results, but the overall results has been a sales decline.

Part of VW's success may be ascribed to expansion into China's growing car market. Earlier this month reports surfaced that China was on pace to exceed Germany as the company's largest sales area, and with over 1.05 million sales forecasted for the year within the country, it has certainly contributed to its advancement on Ford. VW has had its sights set on market leader Toyota for nearly a year now, declaring the Japanese carmaker its biggest competitor.

Toyota and General Motors continue their duel for first place, but Toyota has taken the early lead, reports Automotive News Europe. With 4.82 million cars sold through the first half of the year, the Japanese company is leading General Motors by about 280,000 units - a deficit that will be difficult to overcome in the second half.