Tue, Jan 25, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Toyota Motor still biggest automaker in spite of recalls

AFP, TOKYO

Toyota Motor said yesterday its group sales last year rose despite a global recall that damaged its brand image, enabling the firm to keep its top spot as world’s biggest automaker. Toyota’s global sales rose 8 percent on-year to 8.418 million vehicles, beating the 8.39 million vehicles sold by General Motors last year.

However, after a year in which Toyota’s worst crisis saw the recall of millions of vehicles, a wave of lawsuits and record fines, the company’s troubles are far from over as it battles to regain consumer trust, analysts said.

“Being No. 1 in terms of sales is not important for us,” Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco told reporters. “Our objective is to become No. 1 with the customer, in term of service and customer satisfaction.”

The Toyota group, including small car producer Daihatsu Motor and truckmaker Hino Motors, saw its Japanese sales jump 10 percent while foreign sales rose 7 percent.

Toyota Motor alone sold 7.528 million vehicles, up 8 percent from the previous year.

Toyota’s Prius hybrid broke the Japanese sales record for a single car model last year, helped by a popular government subsidy for green vehicles, according to a Japanese industry group.

However, analysts warn that the full impact of the recall of more than 8 million vehicles worldwide due to safety defects related to brake and accelerator issues may not yet be fully felt.

The crisis prompted US congressional investigations as Toyota was hit with penalties totaling US$48.8 million, including US$16.4 million to settle claims it hid accelerator pedal defects blamed for fatal accidents.

The automaker had previously said it expected global sales to reach 8.61 million vehicles for this year.

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