Volkswagen set to become world's largest automaker

Volkswagen is set to be the world's most popular automaker this year

Volkswagen is likely to become the world's most popular automaker by the end of this year.

The German brand, already the third-most bought automaker in the world, is likely to vault over rivals Toyota and General Motors by the end of the year, analysts surveyed this week by the Financial Times said.

The development will mean that for the first time in several years, a European, rather than a Japanese or North American, name will be at the top of the world's car league table.

By the end of the year, VW will have sold 7.8 million vehicles and have a 10.5 percent market share, analyst JD Power told the Financial Times, followed by General Motors with sales of 7.2 percent.

Toyota will be in fourth place behind Renault-Nissan in the wake of its current supply problems due to March's earthquake in Japan, JD Power said, although other analysts predicted a third-place finish for the Japanese name.

We won't know if the analysts are right until the automakers report their full-year figures at the beginning of January -- last year the Volkswagen Golf was easily Europe's most popular vehicle, but Volkswagen didn't enjoy such stellar sales around the world.

However, with so much focus on developing markets, the story of 2011 looks set to be very different.