Thursday, December 27, 2007

Toyota to replace GM as world's largest automaker

Toyota to replace GM as world's largest automaker in 2007, to widen gap in 2008

TOKYO, Dec. 25, 2007 (Thomson Financial delivered by Newstex) -- Japan's largest automaker Toyota Motor Corp (NYSE:TM) , which is set to replace General Motors Corp (NYSE:GM) as the world's largest automaker this year, said Tuesday it plans to boost group output by 5 percent to 9.95 million vehicles in 2008 to meet growing demand in emerging markets, allowing it to widen the gap with the US giant.

The Nagoya-based Toyota said it expects output this year to reach 9.51 million vehicles, edging out GM as the biggest car maker in the world in terms of output. GM, which is recovering from a devastating 10.6 billion dollar loss in 2005, was expecting to produce 9.26 million vehicles this year.

The Toyota group includes minivehicle maker Daihatsu Motor Co Ltd and truck maker Hino Motors Ltd.

Toyota is expecting an 8 percent rise in overseas production to 4.74 million vehicles in 2008 while domestic output is seen increasing by 2 percent to 5.21 million.

The company recently built a new plant in Russia where it plans to make the Camry model, and now produces 10 car models at a plant in Tianjin, China.

Toyota also launched production of the RAV4 sport utility vehicle at a new factory in Canada and is planning to boost output in South Africa and Guangzhou, China as well.

In North America, the company will start consigning production to partner Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd in the near term.

For 2008, the Toyota group is projecting a 5 percent increase in global vehicle sales to 9.85 million units, following an estimated 6 percent increase this year, as demand for environment-friendly automobiles, including hybrid vehicles, is expected to continue to grow.

Spurred by brisk global demand, Toyota is projecting group sales overseas to rise 7 percent to 7.58 million units while domestic sales is expected to be flat at 2.27 million amid sluggish consumer spending.

For the Toyota and Lexus brands, Toyota expects domestic sales to be flat next year with overseas sales up 6 percent.

At the parent level, Toyota is expecting a 1 percent increase in sales in North America to a record 2.84 million units. It is projecting a 2 percent surge in sales to Europe to a 1.27 million units, also an all-time high, and a 43 percent jump in China sales to a best-ever 700,000 units.

The automaker also plans to sell 450,000 gasoline/electric powered hybrid vehicles next year, up 7 percent from 420,000 units projected for this year.

By the early 2010s, Toyota said it is aiming to sell 1.0 million of the hybrid cars globally.

Despite the difficult sales climate in Japan and uncertainty about sales in the US due to the subprime crisis and higher gasoline prices, Toyota sees further growth going forward.

In August, Toyota said it plans to sell 10.4 million vehicles globally in 2009, up 18.2 percent from 2006, by capitalizing on growing demand in China and other emerging economies.

If Toyota hits its 2009 sales target, it will become the world's first automaker to sell more than 10 million vehicles in a single year, according to analysts. GM sold a record 9.55 million vehicles in 1978.

(1 US dollar = 114.04 yen)

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