Chevy Cruze
Record sales of the Chevy Cruze have helped General Motors reclaim the top sales spot among global automakers. REUTERS

General Motors Co. (GM) has once again grabbed the largest share of global sales and become the world's largest automaker, moving past sales of Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG in 2011.

GM said Thursday it sold 9.03 million vehicles in 2011, driven by Chevrolet's impressive rebound and record-setting 4.76 million vehicles. GM's global sales marked a 7.6 percent increase from 2010. The company also said it gained four-tenths of a point in market share to 11.9 percent.

Chevrolet's impressive growth in both established and developing markets is the result of a strong new product lineup that meets the diverse needs of consumers around the world, GM chairman and CEO Dan Akerson said in a statement. In addition to Chevrolet's record-setting sales, the entire lineup of GM vehicles is meeting customer needs for fuel-efficient cars and work vehicles as well as unmatched luxury.

GM outpaced Volkswagen by nearly a million vehicles and about 11 percent. Last week, Volkswagen said it had sold 8.16 million vehicles in 2011. Toyota has estimated about 7.9 million global sales, but has not officially announced year-end results. Toyota's sales were disrupted by production interruptions after the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan and flooding in Thailand later in 2011.

Sales were up in all regions, but the United States led the way. Chevy sold about 1.78 million vehicles in the U.S. last year. The brand continues to capitalize on the success of the compact Cruze model sedan, which led all sales with more than 670,000 last year. Since its launch in 2009, the Cruze has run up more than 1.13 million sales, driving the success of the Chevrolet brand.

GM said Chevy posted record sales in 15 global markets, including Peru, Thailand, South Africa and Israel. Despite the U.S. leading the way, more than 60 percent of Chevy's sales were outside the U.S. market.

Without doubt the new Chevrolet portfolio has been a catalyst for our success around the world, said Tim Lee, president of GM international operations, in a statement. The launch of the Chevrolet brand in South Korea along with tremendous growth in China and across the rest of our international operations is proof that Chevrolet is becoming a first choice for customers around the globe.

In 2012, we will continue to expand our range with even more great vehicles as we pursue further growth in our key markets.

GM is looking to capitalize on its momentum, and it began that process last week at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. At the Cobo Center, it unveiled a revamped Chevy Sonic RS, as well as two sleek concepts -- tentatively named the Tru 140S and Code 130R -- whose affordability GM will pitch to millennials and the youth market.

It's everything, Mark Reuss, GM's North America division president, said of the youth market at the Detroit Auto Show last week. There are 80 million people in this generation. There are 40 million of them that have the money to buy a car right now. This is going to continually be more and more important. This is job No. 1 for us right now.