Volkswagen is looking good to claim the crown as its two biggest rivals, Toyota and General Motors, both run into trouble.
Brand T has been hit badly by its reliability and safety scare in the world's biggest showroom, the USA, and hurt in many other countries - including Australia - by the production troubles triggered by the Japanese tsunami and earthquake earlier this year.
Volkswagen is already number one in Europe, with sales of 2.8 million vehicles - nearly triple the annual sales rate in Australia. Meanwhile, General Motors is still rebuilding after its bankruptcy and is also impacted by sluggish sales at home in America.
Volkswagen Group has been aiming for the top spot for several years under the aggressive leadership of Ferdinand Piech, and forecasts it will hit the target in 2018 as it aims to increase its annual global sales to around 10 million vehicles.
It is spending around $100 million to increase production across the world, as well as developing a vast range of new models currently headed by the value-driven baby Up.
But, with the troubles at its rivals, three forecasters are now saying it will finish on top at the end of 2011. The respected JP Power organisation in the USA, as well as IHS Automotive and PwC Autofacts, believe Volkswagen's worldwide sales this year will rise by around 13 per cent to 8.1 million.
Its biggest successes are coming in China off the back of the Volkswagen brand, but VW Group can also claim totals from a huge range of brands including Bugatti, Bentley, Audi, Seat and Skoda. At the same time, Toyota's total is forecast by Power to fall by 9 per cent to 7.27 million.
The Japanese slide is worse than it looks, as it could also cost Toyota second place to General Motors after the hard work to become global number one in 2010. Power says GM's sales will improve by 8 per cent to 7.55 million, although the margins at the top of world motoring will be very tight by December 31.