Source AP ©

Toyota plans to sell 10.4 million vehicles in 2009

Toyota plans to break a record hit by world leader General Motors 30 years ago and sell 10.4 million vehicles globally in 2009, it said Friday.

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 gave the ambitious sales plan in a document handed out as President Katsuaki Watanabe outlined the company's growth strategy for coming years.

Watanabe said Toyota will continue to upgrade its product quality and work on technological innovations such as luxury Lexus hybrids, boosting sales in North America, Europe, Asia and other markets. 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.

The record for most global vehicle sales ever in a year is the 9.55 million vehicles Detroit-based GM sold in 1978. But Toyota has been closing in on the gap, with its sales benefitting 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 at US$891 million (EUR655 million). That marked a reversal from a loss of US$3.4 billion (EUR2.5 billion) GM posted in the same period last year.

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 declined to answer questions about becoming No. 1, and said Toyota must remain vigilant so it doesn't become arrogant, maintains tight quality controls, works with dealers in every region and keeps up worker morale.

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

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