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Toyota is #1 ... So What is Next?

As soon as I started reporting on Thursday that Toyota is likely to replace General Motors in 2007 as the world's #1 automaker, the question came up: What's next for the Japanese automaker?

Yes, in general terms the company is likely to continue gaining market share in the U.S. It's currently #3 with 15.3% market share behind ford 17.6% and GM 24.7%. And next year as Ford pulls back fleet sales to rental companies, Toyota is likely to become #2 in the U.S.

Here in the U.S., look for Toyota to chip away at the big 3's dominance in pick-ups with the new Tundra. It's Toyota's first full size pick-up, and while it's going up against extremely strong models from Ford and GM, the Tundra will help Toyota.

But the real story is what Toyota is doing internationally. In Europe is gaining share, and is no longer a second tier player. In developing markets, Toyota is coming on strong. In fact, those developing markets Toyota is hoping to build low cost cars that it can also profit from. Renault's Logan shows the automakers can make an inexpensive car that will sell. If Toyota can replicate that kind of success, then it will be stretch it's lead in global production.

Finally, expect Toyota to strengthen it's position in luxury models. Lexus is a strong brand, but Toyota wants it to be even stronger. The automaker's not ready to build a model priced over $100,000.00. However, Toyota know Lexus, like almost all of the company has momentum.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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