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Toyota Could Be World's #1 Car Company -  As Soon As Tonight!

There's more evidence that Toyota is coming on strong and might leave both Ford and GM in the dust. CNBC’s Phil LeBeau has more on Toyota emerging as the #1 car company in the world.

LeBeau says in just a matter of hours, it could become clear that Toyota will pass up General Motors to become the world's number one automaker. The Japanese company releases its '07 forecast at midnight and those numbers are expected to show Toyota making more vehicles globally than GM.

Lebeau says “I think this might surprise people, (how quickly Toyota has closed the gap on General Motors) but it is not surprising when you consider the growth and where it is coming around the world."

First, Toyota unveiled a new plant in San Antonio where they are going to be building the new Tundra.

Second, in Indiana, they are going to be producing cars at the Subaru plant there because they need more capacity.

At the end of the day, this is a case where Toyota has almost all of its plants running at or over its assigned capacity simply because sales are going so strong.

The interesting thing is -- the strength is not just in North America - it's in Europe. Just ten years ago if you mentioned Toyota in Europe, people would have chuckled. Not the case anymore.

And across the board, the strength is in a full line of vehicles. So they are setting themselves up to be a real full line manufacturer in a way that GM and Ford are actually backing away from (because both GM and Ford have said that they are exiting the mini van segment.)

This is not to suggest, though, that we couldn't see a comeback by General Motors. GM is very strong globally. I think a lot of people look at what's happening in North America and they think these guys are in a tailspin. That's not the case globally. 

Chevy is one of the fastest growing brands. It is shifting its production overseas. It is growing globally. It is simply not growing as quickly as Toyota is. It goes without saying that it puts Ford at number three. Ford will be at number three.