German auto giant Volkswagen Auto Group has taken over the lead for global automobile sales for the first half of 2015. Volkswagen has overtaken long-time sales leader, the Toyota group, by a slim margin of 20,000 units. One of Volkswagen's long term goals is to be the world's number one automotive group by 2018 and with this achievement, the group is ahead of schedule by three years.

For the first half of 2015, Toyota sold 5.02 million vehicles while Volkswagen shifted 5.04 million units. The sales report includes purchases for commercial vehicles as well. Despite the sales achievement, Volkswagen and Toyota sales are actually down compared to the same period last year. Sales for Volkswagen Auto Group are down 0.5% from last year's figures while Toyota's are lower by 1.5%. Even General Motors wasn't spared from slightly lower sales at 1.2% down from the first half of 2014. One factor to the slowing down of worldwide sales is China's economy.

Vehicle sales in China fell for the first time in two years when economic growth slowed down. As a result, automakers will be manufacturing less vehicles in China. This is a stark contrast to the previous years where major manufacturers were rushing to build factories in the country. China has long been Volkswagen's major market but sales fell by 3.9%. Toyota however bucked the trend with a sales increase of 10%.

Other major markets are slowing down Volkswagen and Toyota in the sales race. Christian Klingler, Volkswagen’s sales chief, said earlier this month the company was “not immune” from market trends in China and that conditions in South America and Russia market “remain tense.”

Golf GTI

In other markets, the two volume leaders are doing well. Volkswagen sales in Europe rose by more that 6 %, thanks to the launch of the all-new Passat and the continued popularity of the Porsche Macan. Toyota sales in Europe also went up by 5.7 %. The US market has also been good for the two manufacturers. Toyota posted gains of 5.6% thanks to the updated RAV4 and the all-new Lexus NX. Volkswagen Auto Group gained 2.4% in sales in the US thanks to the Audi A3 sedan, the Volkswagen Golf and the Volkswagen Jetta.

Volkswagen Auto Group is comprised of Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, MAN Trucks, Neoplan, Porsche, Scania, SEAT, Skoda and Volkswagen and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. Under Toyota Motor Corporation is Lexus, Scion, Daihatsu, Hino, Ranz and Toyota.