Tue, May 13, 2008 - Page 11 News List

Toyota releases two minivans to spur sales at home

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Toyota Motor Corp, Japan’s largest automaker, introduced two minivans in the country to help stem a 2.4 percent drop in domestic sales this year.

The Alphard, revamped for the first time since its introduction in 2002, will be priced between ¥3 million (US$29,000) and ¥4.5 million, the company said in a release yesterday. The Vellfire will have the same price range.

The carmaker forecasts sales of 3,000 units a month for both models. Both models will compete with Honda Motor Co’s Elysion and Nissan Motor Co’s Elgrand.

Toyota needs to spur sales in Japan with new models because the market has one of the shortest model cycles of any country, analysts said. Including the revamped Crown sedan in February, the Toyota City, Japan-based company has introduced three models domestically so far this year.

The company plans to raise domestic sales by 0.6 percent to 1.6 million vehicles this year, it said in December. Toyota’s sales in Japan, which accounts for about 19 percent of the carmaker’s total sales, rose for the first time in five months last month.

Toyota last week forecast a drop in its net income for the first time in seven years as higher gasoline prices and an economic slowdown crimp demand in the US, its most profitable market. The company plans more cost cuts to help offset higher raw material prices, president Katsuaki Watanabe told reporters in Tokyo yesterday.

Toyota sold 114,675 vehicles last month, up 8.6 percent from a year earlier, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association. Sales of the Alphard have totaled 438,000 vehicles since May 2002.

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