Volkswagen took the top spot as the world's largest automaker in the first of 2015, edging out out Toyota. The company sold 5.04 million vehicles in the first six months of the year, as opposed to Toyota's 5.02 million. General Motors, which was the world's biggest automaker for more than seven decades, has sold the third most, according to Motor Trend.

The title of world's largest automaker means little from a practical perspective, but it does serve as an effective gauge of how global strategies are unfolding.

"It's certainly bragging rights, and being able to communicate that they're the largest automaker in the world is a powerful statement," said Tom Libby, an IHS Automotive analyst. "It's certainly something they're going to promote."

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has long wanted the company to seize the No. 1 spot by 2018, according to USA Today. Whether the German automaker can retain that title going forward remains to be seen.

"They've been very aggressive and open about their desire to be No. 1, so it speaks to them executing their plan," Libby said.

Even though Volkswagen is now No.1, the path to to the top was not a smooth ride.

The German automaker's global sales for the first half of 2015 fell 0.5 percent compared to 2014. Its sales in China, the company's largest single market, decreased by 3.9 percent to 1.74 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. Within the same time period, Toyota's global sales fell 1.5 percent.

Last year Toyota narrowly edged out VW as the world's largest automaker for the third consecutive year. In 2014, Toyota sold 10.23 million vehicles compared to VW's 10.14 million.