August 28, 2008

(Update) Toyota Cuts 2009 Global Sales Estimate to 9.7 M. Units

Tokyo, Aug. 28 (Jiji Press)--Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday that it has revised down its group's 2009 global vehicle sales estimate to some 9.7 million units from 10.4 million units due mainly to slumping sales in North America.

Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe announced the lower estimate at a meeting here to explain the Toyota group's business strategy. The estimate covers sales at Toyota and two subsidiaries--Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd. .

No automaker in the world has ever achieved annual global sales of 10 million units.

Vehicle sales in the United States have been falling sharply because of surging gasoline prices and a slowdown of the world's biggest economy. Toyota cut the sales estimate, judging that sales growth in emerging markets will not be enough to offset the slump in the U.S. market.

In late July, the leading Japanese automaker lowered its group's vehicle sales estimate for 2008 by 350,000 units to 9.5 million units.

Watanabe said that the business environment is becoming tougher because of slowing demand in the United States and the soaring materials prices.

The firm will speed up the development of electric vehicles in line with global efforts to realize a low-carbon society, Watanabe said, adding that Toyota is aiming to start mass production of compact electric vehicles in the early 2010s.

Watanabe also said that Toyota now plans to start selling so- called plug-in hybrid vehicles to large-lot clients in late 2009, earlier than the initially envisioned 2010. Plug-in hybrid vehicles employ batteries that can be recharged by plugging the vehicles into power outlets.

Toyota last week announced plans to raise the domestic prices of two hybrid vehicle models--the Prius and the Harrier Hybrid--by 3 pct and those of some commercial vehicles by one to 3.3 pct from September.

At Thursday's meeting, Watanabe noted that Toyota has kept the price hike to a minimum in order not to overly impact the domestic automobile market.

Toyota plans to launch a new version of the Prius and a new hybrid model from its Lexus luxury brand series in January 2009.END

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