Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> kept its spot at the top of the global sales ranking in 2010, outselling General Motors Co by less than 30,000 units as the U.S. rival achieved faster growth in the world's two biggest markets.

Toyota's global sales, including minivehicle unit Daihatsu Motor Co <7262.T> and truck unit Hino Motors Ltd <7205.T>, grew 8 percent to 8.418 million vehicles, it said in a statement, helping it keep its No.1 standing for the third straight year.

GM, which lost the crown in 2008 for the first time in nearly eight decades, said its sales climbed 12.2 percent to 8.390 million vehicles last year, with deliveries in China and the United States, the top two markets, both exceeding 2 million.

Toyota's U.S. sales suffered last year from a safety crisis that led to the recall of at least 10 million cars in its single-biggest market, leaving rivals such as Ford Motor Co and Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> to eat into its share.

GM's growth in the United States, while slower than the industry's average, outpaced Toyota's slight decline with a 6.3 percent rise. In China, GM's sales soared 29 percent, beating Toyota's 19 percent climb.

GM's sales comprise a dozen brands, including more than 1 million vehicles from the Wuling nameplate made by a minority-held joint venture in China.

Excluding vehicles sold by majority-held Daihatsu and Hino, Toyota's sales rose 8 percent in 2010 to 7.528 million vehicles, powered in large part by a double-digit gain in Japan, where government subsidies fueled demand.

A bigger presence in fast-growing economies such as China, India, Brazil and Russia is seen as crucial to selling more cars as demand stagnates in mature markets.

Volkswagen , Europe's top automaker, has said it aims to become the world's top seller by 2018 as it expands in the United States, India and other key markets.

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Chris Gallagher)