Toyota Motor Corp. snatched the global auto sales lead back from Volkswagen Group in the third quarter.

Through the first nine months of this year the Japanese automaker sold just under 7.5 million vehicles, making it the world’s largest car company. But Toyota backed into the sales crown. Its numbers are off 1.5 percent from the same period a year ago.

Volkswagen AG had the lead for the first half of the year. Its sales for the last nine months were flat at 7.43 million vehicles.

VW’s results took only a small hit during the quarter from the German automaker’s emission-test-rigging scandal, which became public in September.

U.S. environmental officials caught VW using software embedded in the engine management systems of its four-cylinder diesel cars to cheat pollution testing. The rigging affects about 500,000 cars sold in the U.S. and 11 million globally. VW, which has admitted the scheme, faces multiple investigations in the U.S. and fines of up to $18 billion.

The scandal is expected to have a bigger effect on its sales during the fourth quarter of the year.

General Motors Co. was third. Its sales for the first nine months of this year were 7.2 million, a 1 percent decline. GM was the world’s biggest automaker through most of its history until surpassed by Toyota in 2008.

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