Toyota expecting 9.7mn sales this year

DRIVING RECOVERY::The carmaker is experiencing a recovery after a turbulent year, but may suffer in China from sovereignty disputes and competition

AFP and Bloomberg, TOKYO

Thu, Dec 27, 2012 - Page 15

Toyota Motor Corp said yesterday that it expects to sell 9.7 million vehicles globally this year, up 22 percent from last year as Japan’s biggest automaker accelerates a recovery after last year’s natural disasters.

Those figures may put Toyota back in pole position as the world’s biggest automaker, ahead of General Motors Co (GM) and Volkswagen AG (VW).

Previous company figures showed Toyota, whose brands include Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino, topped the global carmakers’ table in the first half of the year, accelerating past US-based GM and the German auto giant.

Toyota lost the title last year — a spot it had held between 2008 and 2010 — following a slump in production and sales owing to Japan’s quake-tsunami disaster in March last year, floods in Thailand and the strong yen.

GM, which sold about 9 million vehicles last year, was the world’s biggest carmaker followed by Volkswagen with more than 8 million vehicles sold. Toyota sold 7.95 million vehicles.

Toyota also said yesterday it expects to sell about 9.91 million vehicles next year. It was on track to produce 9.94 million vehicles next year, nearly unchanged from this year, the company added.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen will vie with GM for the sales crown among foreign automakers in China next year, gaining share as Japanese carmakers led by Toyota struggle to recover amid a territorial dispute.

VW, whose luxury Audi sedans are popular with Chinese bureaucrats, has not held the lead in the country since 2004 and will probably sell 2.7 million vehicles in the country next year to GM’s 2.65 million, helped by eight new or revamped models including the Santana, Golf, Skoda Octavia and Audi Q3, according to industry researcher JSC Automotive Consulting. GM’s new offerings include the Cadillac XTS and three Opel models.

Passenger-vehicle sales in China will probably accelerate and gain as much as 10 percent next year, as a rebound in economic growth gathers strength, according to eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. Foreign automakers are stepping up their investments in China, counting on the world’s largest pool of first-time car buyers to help offset declining sales in Europe. Total vehicle sales may surpass 19 million units this year, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said on Dec. 10.

In China, Japanese automakers will play catch-up as they step up efforts to regain market share lost after tensions soared over sovereignty of the uninhabited Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), controlled by Tokyo, which calls them the Senkakus, with neither side willing to budge. Taiwan also claims the islands.

Japanese automakers may suffer production cuts into 2014 and lose a combined 650,000 units in vehicle output if tensions do not abate between the two countries, according to analyst’s estimates.