Toyota's global production last year surged 10 percent to more than 9 million vehicles, narrowing the gap with General Motors, the world's No. 1 automaker.
Toyota Motor Corp., riding on its reputation for fuel-efficient cars like the Prius hybrid, said Friday that it produced 9.018 million vehicles, including its Japanese subsidiaries that make trucks and smaller models. It was its fifth straight year of growth.
Detroit-based General Motors Corp. and its group automakers produced 9.18 million vehicles worldwide in 2006 — about 162,000 vehicles more than its Japanese rival.
That gap has narrowed from about 819,000 vehicles at the end of 2005, when Toyota and its Japanese units made 8.232 million vehicles worldwide and GM's production totaled 9.051 million.
Late last year, Toyota set a global production target of 9.42 million vehicles for this year, which is likely to put it ahead of GM. GM does not announce production targets for the year ahead.
"Things are going very well with Toyota, and it's likely to achieve its target for this year," said Shotaro Noguchi, auto analyst for Mitsubishi UFJ Securities Co. in Tokyo.
Toyota has already long beat GM in profitability, reporting robust earnings, while GM has sunk into the red on massive restructuring costs. GM lost $3 billion through the first nine months of last year but says it will report a profit in the fourth quarter; it lost $10.6 billion in 2005.
Also Friday, data from automakers showed Honda Motor Co. had surpassed Nissan Motor Co. to become Japan's No. 2 automaker in annual global vehicle production.
Solid demand for the Civic model boosted Honda's production in North America and China, said company spokeswoman Yu Kimoto, as Honda achieved an all-time calendar year record for worldwide production in 2006.
Honda had been ranked second among Japanese automakers in 2003, but fell to No. 3 after that.
Global production at Nissan fell 7.7 percent in 2006 to 3.24 million vehicles, while Honda's worldwide production last year rose 6.6 percent to 3.63 million vehicles.
In December, Toyota's global output totaled 624,219 vehicles, up 4.7 percent from the same month a year earlier. It was the 26th consecutive month of growth.
Overseas production edged up 0.1 percent to 285,931 vehicles, while domestic production rose 8.8 percent to 338,288.
Nissan, which has an alliance with Renault SA of France, said global production in December fell 3.2 percent to 238,332 vehicles, with domestic output declining 6.9 percent and overseas production inching down 0.6 percent.
Honda said its global output rose 6.4 percent to 283,245 vehicles in December. Production in Japan posted a 14.8 percent gain, while overseas output rose 1.2 percent.
Global production for Mazda Motor Corp. climbed 14.2 percent to 116,276 vehicles last month. For 2006, Mazda — 33.9 percent owned by U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co. — produced 1.285 million vehicles worldwide, up 12.1 percent from 2005.
Output at Mitsubishi Motors Corp. declined 3 percent to 109,960 vehicles in December. Mitsubishi's global production last year slipped 3.6 percent to 1.31 million vehicles.