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GM Or Toyota As Number One: Does It Really Matter?

As I watched my White Sox finish a sweet sweep of the Cubs last night, I talked to my friend Mike from Detroit. He's a great guy, despite his love of the Tigers. But he said one thing that could summarize how many in motown may feel by tomorrow night. "It's not like we didn't see this coming," said Detroit Mike about Toyota closing in on #1.

Tomorrow could be one of the watershed moments in the American business. When June auto sales are reported, there is a chance that for the first time ever, a foreign automaker will be #1 in monthly sales. It's a possibility many scoffed at ever happening. Now that Toyotais knocking on the door, the question is whether it really matters if GM is #1 or #2?

Yes, I know I will get a slew of e-mails from those of you who say Americans ought to buy American. I take a different view. American business has always been about the best product winning... period. For years, GM lost market share because its products were not the best. Even their executives admit that there were years of forgettable models.

So, what began as a trickle of fed up buyers in the early 70's has now become a wave of converts to Toyota. The Japanese automaker could soon find itself in the position of being the top dog after 50 years as the underdog. Knowing the company and execs as I do, I doubt much will change at Toyota if it becomes #1. Getting fat and happy is not in the company's DNA.

For you, the car lover/buyer, does it matter to you if GM is not #1. What if you have a better, more responsive automaker at #2? It's not such a bad thing is it? Ford is far more responsive and connected company since falling behind Toyota last year. Funny how losing what you once had can motivate a company to get it's act together, which is slowly but clearly happening under Ford CEO Alan Mulally.

GM is making similar moves with CEO Rick Wagoner. Hopefully Detroit Mike and the other fans of motown will remember that if Toyota does pass GM.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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