Despite the global economic downturn, the nation of China is still on track to become the world's largest automaker by this year. Currently, China remains in second place to Japan, but last year the Chinese managed to overtake the U.S. to claim their current second-place position, and this trend is expected to continue this year, with China holding the lead spot through at least 2013 based on current trends.

Market research firms are predicting that China will manufacture around 8.7 million vehicles this year, over a million units more than Japan is expected to produce. Most of these cars will never leave China, but a small number will be exported by growing Chinese brands such as Chery and Shanghai Autos.

One market research firm in particular, iSuppli, is heralding the news as a "major milestone in China's economic ascendancy and the United States' industrial decline", and with the current state of the U.S. economy it is easy to see why China is becoming a leading manufacturer in areas of complex mass production.

The ascendancy of China and the decline of the U.S. is also signposted by the sudden growth in the Chinese market, which has seen automotive production double since 2004 while at the same time U.S. production halved in the same period.

Additionally, while the overall global market for cars is expected to fall by over 20% this year, China will remain comparatively stable with production expected to decline just 6.5%. Japan especially will be forced to cut production by massive amounts this year following their overstocking of inventory in the wake of the economic crisis - whether or not China ever makes the leap to becoming a dominant export force like Japan still remains to be seen, but with the crown of the world's largest car producing nation soon to be theirs it seems more of a certainty now than ever.