China will remain the primary driver of global vehicle production growth over the next four years, but the U.S. will remain the No. 2 vehicle producer in the world as North America continues to play a unique role in the automotive industry, according to WardsAuto and AutomotiveCompass.

The report comes from the newly released joint Global Light Vehicle and Powertrain Forecast service from WardsAuto and AutomotiveCompass. The new forecast also calls for auto makers to consolidate the number of platforms underpinning their vehicles while increasing the percentage of cars and trucks that rely on smaller engines.

The WardsAuto /AutomotiveCompass forecast, which is updated monthly for clients, projects growth in all global regions through 2018, with total vehicle output increasing 23 percent over the next six years. The report highlights the China-led Asia-Pacific region's increasing dominance, especially through 2016, when production in China alone will climb to 26 million units; a 7.5 million unit increase from 2012.

By comparison, production in the U.S., the No. 2 vehicle producer, is projected to increase by 1.3 million by 2016, while production in the third-highest producing country, Japan, is forecast to decline by 875,000 units over the next four years, as capacity continues to shift to other locations.

In that same period, India will surge ahead of South Korea and Germany to rank fourth among vehicle producing countries. The WardsAuto/AutomotiveCompass outlook also projects that Volkswagen will lay claim to the top-produced platform in the world, by 2015, as its MQB architecture, which will spawn several small and midsize car and cross/utility vehicles, should end a three-year reign by Toyota's MC platform that began last year (when it usurped Hyundai's HD architecture) and is expected to continue through 2014.

The forecast also confirms the gradual trend of production consolidation among global platforms. In 2012, 31 platforms accounted for half of global production. In 2016, that number drops to 27.