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Global auto sales hit record high of 82.8 million

For the first time ever annual global auto sales have topped 80 million vehicles, according to consulting firm IHS Automotive.

The firm tallied year-end sales numbers from around the world and came up with a total of 82.84 million vehicles, a 4.2% increase compared to 2012.

The sales pace means 2.6 new vehicles were sold every second last year.

(Read more: Lackluster December sales don't faze automakers)

Sales growth in China and the United States – the world's two largest auto markets – underlies the record surge in new cars and trucks.

China is expected to report 2013 sales of over 21 million when the country releases year-end sales figures next week.

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In the U.S., 2013 auto sales climbed 7.6% to 15.6 million.

Annual Global Auto Sales

2013: 82.8 million

2012: 79.5 million

2011: 76.7 million

2010: 73.2 million

Source: IHS Automotive

Headed for 100 million

IHS Automotive predicts global auto sales will climb to 85 million this year and steadily increase through 2018 when annual auto sales are forecast to top 100 million.

Within four years, China alone could see 30 million vehicles being sold every year.

While China will be responsible for almost a third of the new vehicles sold by 2018, much of the growth will come from developing auto markets such as India, Russia, and Brazil.

(Read more: The road ahead: Luxury booms and incentives soar)

GM, Toyota, VW battle for #1

IHS is still calculating total sales for each of automaker and individual brands from around the world, but the battle for the global sales crown will come down to General Motors and Toyota, with Volkswagen expected to finish a close third.

The top three automakers are each projected to have sold more than nine million vehicles last year, meaning the three auto giants generated roughly a third of the industry's global sales.

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com.

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