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Toyota global vehicle sales increase 28 percent from January-September

TOKYO -- Toyota sold 7.4 million vehicles around the world in the first nine months of the year, up 28 percent from a year earlier, but its strong growth faces headwinds from a sales plunge in China that could unseat it as the world's top automaker.

Anti-Japanese sentiment flared in China after Japan nationalized tiny islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, intensifying a territorial dispute. The move set off violent protests in China and a widespread call to boycott Japanese goods. The islands are administered by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.

Toyota's vehicle sales in China dropped to about half of last year's levels in September to 44,100 vehicles from 86,000 the year before. In August, Toyota sold 75,280 vehicles in China, down 15 percent.

Toyota reclaimed its crown as the world's top automaker from General Motors Co. in the first half, selling 4.97 million vehicles globally. That marked a turnaround Toyota, which had suffered setbacks in recent years from massive recalls and natural disasters.

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