After 77 years, the auto industry turned the page to find Toyota Motor Co. as the new largest automaker in the world, succeeding General Motors Co. amid an economic recession which has battered the U.S. company.

General Motors reported sales of 8.35 million units in 2008, down 11 percent from the previous year, GM said on Wednesday. The figures compare to Toyota's sales which dropped only 4 percent to 8.92 million vehicles in the year. GM is currently in a restructuring process with a promised $13.4 billion bailout from the U.S. government which may help it to move beyond its precarious cash position.

Shares of General Motors were down as much as 4 percent before regaining the losses to close up0.86 pct, or 3 cents to $3.53.

Despite the new leadership in the market, experts are worried that both companies will still face a tough market, especially in the U.S., which is their largest source of sales worldwide. General Motors cut its 2009 sales outlook last week to 10.5 million from its previous forecast of 10.5 to 12 million.