While General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Co. both say that being profitable and providing the cars that people want to buy is their priority, the question of who will be number one in vehicle sales has nevertheless attracted a great deal of attention.

GM has held on to its position as global sales leader for over 70 years. Until recently, its nearest competitor has been Ford Motor Co. However as Ford faces lower sales and struggles to turn around its loss producing operations, it has been passed by Toyota in number of vehicle sales.

The tale of the earnings tape can give a quick snapshot of where the bout of numbers stands. The latest available quarterly data for both GM and Toyota during the same time period provides a glimpse of the current state of the companies.

The figures from July to September of 2006 show clearly that the Japanese company - after converting figures from Yen - is experiencing great profitability versus its American rival. In total sales, Toyota is just slightly ahead of GM.

For the period in question, Toyota had total sales of $49.4 billion, while GM had total sales of $48.8 billion.

Net income was not close, however. Toyota earned $3.44 billion versus GM's loss of $115 million.

Beyond the flicker of the three month frame, which shows greater profitability for Toyota and nearly even revenue for the companies, a comparison with the same period a year earlier shows a bit of the direction the companies are headed in.

In terms of revenue, Toyota has been moving ahead powerfully versus the previous year. GM grew, but at a much more subdued pace.

In net income, Toyota is chugging forward with very strong profit growth. GM, meanwhile, reduced its losses steeply versus the previous year.

Revenue at Toyota grew 17.3 percent, while GM revenue grew at 3.4 percent.

Net income at the maker of the Camry and Corolla grew 33.5 percent. The maker of the Chevy Silverado and Cadillac reduced its losses by nearly $1.5 billion.

However, what has garnered some of the greatest interest is vehicle sales. The results for 2006 show that GM beat Toyota in overall vehicle sales. The tally stands at 9.18 million vehicles versus 9.02 million. The figures represent growth in vehicle sales from 2005 of one percent for GM and 9.6 percent for Toyota.

Looking ahead, Toyota expects to sell 9.42 million in 2007, a 10.4 percent pace of growth versus 2006. GM has not yet announced its estimates and has delayed filing its latest quarterly report. It expects a profit, but hasn't said how much.

However, if GM continues along with the same annual growth, it will sell 9.27 million vehicles in 2007. Toyota would take the vehicle sales champion’s belt from GM for 2007.

For the first time in decades, there could be a new number one vehicle seller.