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Will Toyota Finally Become America's Sweetheart?

I_love_toyota.jpg
CNBC.com photo composite

When the July auto sales come out later today, the most interesting numbers to watch may be those for Chevrolet and Toyota. Halfway through this year the two were neck and neck in the battle to be America's top selling brand.

I know some of you will read this and think, "who cares?". Well, the long list of people who care stretches from Detroit to Tokyo, and for good reason.

Yes, there are bragging rights that go with being #1 in the U.S. And you can bet the marketing departments at the automakers and dealerships will use that fact to tout their next round of deals.

Speaking of deals, this battle for #1 is at the heart of the pick-up incentive battle heating up. As Toyota has become more aggressive offering 0% financing and/or cash back on the new Tundra, it's forced GM to respond. Yesterday GM CEO Rick Wagoner admitted truck sales took a hit in June as the competition became more aggressive, so GM answered this week with a fresh round of sweeter deals. Wagoner doesn't expect the truck "deal wars" to get out of hand as the incentives wars did a few years ago. Still, if you are in the market for a truck, now is the time to get what you are looking for.

What's fascinating is watching how quickly Toyota has come to the verge of being America's best selling brand. A few years ago, Ford and Chevy were locked in a fierce battle and Toyota was a distant #3. But the success of it's SUVs, and more recently, the new Tundra pick-up have helped Toyota (not including Scion) draw within a few thousand of Ford for #2, with GM's top status within spitting distance.

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet may have to be altered after today's auto sales.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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