Video: Toyota’s engine humming

updated 8/31/2007 8:56:37 AM ET 2007-08-31T12:56:37

Toyota plans to sell 10.4 million vehicles globally in 2009, it said Friday, a sales target that would put the Japanese automaker ahead of a record set by world leader General Motors 30 years ago.

Analysts say Toyota Motor Corp. is likely on track to beat General Motors Corp. as the world's biggest automaker in global vehicle sales and production this year _ a title Detroit-based GM has held for 76 years.

Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe gave the ambitious sales plan in an outline of the company's growth strategy, which includes working on product quality and introducing technological innovations such as luxury Lexus hybrids. The company plans to boost sales not only in North America and Europe, but also in emerging markets such as Brazil, India, China and Russia. Sales in Japan, though, were expected to stay relatively flat.

"We will win in every opportunity, reduce risks, and even turn risks into opportunities," he said at a Tokyo hotel.

In typical understatement, Watanabe denied the company was chasing sales numbers and brushed off a question about breaking GM's industry record of 9.55 million vehicles sold in 1978.

"All I can say is that I am truly grateful for every customer who bought our cars," he said after the news conference.

"I really believe we must never forget this feeling that it's building on each and every car," Watanabe said.

Toyota has been closing the gap with GM, with its sales benefiting from the popularity of its Camry sedans, Prius gas-electric hybrids and other models reputed for good mileage at a time when gasoline prices are soaring.

General Motors, which has been forced to scale back production amid intensifying competition from Toyota and other rivals, posted its third straight quarter of profit in the April-June period _ it earned $891 million in contrast to a loss of $3.4 billion a year earlier.

Toyota and its group companies, including subsidiaries Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd., sold 8.8 million vehicles worldwide last year, trailing GM at 9.1 million vehicles.

Toyota has said it plans to sell 9.34 million vehicles this year, and 9.8 million vehicles in 2008. The 2009 target shows Toyota is determined to continue on that solid growth track.

Toyota has already beaten GM in global vehicle sales for the first six months of this year, selling 4.72 million vehicles, compared to GM's 4.674 million vehicles.

Toyota still trailed GM in global vehicle production for the first half, rolling out 4.71 million vehicles worldwide.

General Motors, which produced 4.75 million vehicles during that period, does not give vehicle sales or production targets.

Toyota said Friday it aims to boost sales in North America to 3.1 million vehicles, in Asia excluding Japan to 1.9 million, and in Europe to 1.45 million.

Watanabe said Toyota must remain vigilant so it doesn't become arrogant. It will continue to maintain tight quality controls, work with dealers in every region and keep up worker morale, he said.

Toyota said it will achieve growth by targeting emerging economies with low cost models. It will also woo buyers with ecological technology, such as clean diesel engines, and sportscars, and raise the number of nations where Lexus luxury models are sold to 76 by 2010 from the current 68.

"We are taking up a major challenge toward this enormous number," Watanabe said of the sales target.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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