General Motors edged out Volkswagen in its first-quarter sales as both companies try to close the gap with Toyota for the global sales crown.Toyota dethroned GM to retake the top spot in 2012, a year in which VW posted record sales and came within 190 000 vehicles of beating GM.GM said that it sold 2.36-million cars and trucks across the globe from January to March 2013, an increase of 3.6% over the first quarter of 2012. EUROPEAN SALES DECLINEVW’s global sales rose 5% to 2.27-million vehicles but the automaker cautioned that markets outside North America and China, particularly in Europe, "are becoming even more difficult."Car sales are sagging across Europe because of the debt crisis and recession. Governments have slashed spending and unemployment has soared to record levels, as much as 50% of young workers in some countries.Companies including GM and Ford have cut back on operations in Europe to off-set sales declines.GM's growth was led by Cadillac, with sales worldwide up 26%. Chevrolet, which makes up 73% of GM’s company sales, grew just under 1% over its record 2012 numbers. It was Chevy's 10th straight quarter of record global sales, the automaker said. Sales growth exceeded the 1.5% growth in total worldwide auto sales, according to GM.VW TO REMAIN IN THIRDIn 2012, Toyota sold 9.7-million cars and trucks worldwide to beat GM's 9.29-million models. VW, riding strong growth in North America and China, finished a close third, selling 9.1-million vehicles.Analysts report economic trouble in Europe is likely to slow VW's growth and keep the automaker in third place in 2013.Toyota sales also could be hurt in China, where they've been sagging due to a territorial despite between the two countries.Both GM and Toyota saw higher sales in 2012 but Toyota's growth was far greater as it rolled out new versions of popular models like the Camry. GM executives promised sales growth in 2013, especially in the US Both companies say publicly that they don't care about who wins, but concede that the crown is an important morale booster for employees.GM was the top-selling carmaker for more than seven decades before losing the title to Toyota in 2008. GM retook the sales crown in 2011 when Toyota's factories were slowed by an earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The disaster left Toyota dealers with few cars to sell. The automaker has since recovered.