It's official: Toyota has surpassed GM as the top-selling automaker in the world, ending what the New York Times called "one of the longest runs of dominance in all of global history." It's a milestone, if an expected one, for the auto industry, which GM has led since surpassing Ford in 1931. A spokesman for Toyota suggested that the company is not preoccupied by being number one, insisting that, "we look at the results as simply a reflection of how our products are viewed favorably around the world. We don't just make them and push them out the door — we have a 'pull' system and we build them when they are ordered."

But don't be fooled by Toyota's seeming modesty--it helps the company from appearing too much like the threatening foreigner. Indeed, Toyota remains a high-profile target of American and European trade restrictions. Jim Womack, president of the think tank the Lean Institute, spoke with Inc. about Toyota's ascendancy for the global issue. As Womack sees it, "Toyota's managers spend a lot of time managing the decline of Ford, GM, Chrysler--they don't want to be seen as the foreign company that wrecked American industry."

For information about when the US imported the first Toyota Corolla.--and other global highlights (or lowlights depending how you see it), check out our timeline here.

What do you think of Toyota's success? Do you think the US and European governments need to enact more protectionist trade restrictions or is a competitive global economy in our best interest? What do you drive?