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Toyota to break GM sales record
Toyota said today it plans to sell 10.4 million vehicles globally in 2009, a sales target that would put the Japanese automaker ahead of a record set by world leader General Motors 30 years ago.

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 President Katsuaki Watanabe gave the ambitious sales plan in an outline of the company's growth strategy, which includes working on product quality and introducing technological innovations such as luxury Lexus hybrids. The company plans to boost sales not only in North America and Europe, but also in emerging markets such as Brazil, India, China and Russia. 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.

Koji Endo, an auto analyst with Credit Suisse in Japan, said the 10.4 million vehicles target was likely a cautious underestimate. Toyota exuded confidence that its robust momentum for growth isn't about to dwindle, he said, with model development and marketing planned for key regions.

"To surpass the 10 million mark is a certain benchmark for Toyota," Endo said. "But even after it passes that point, Toyota is saying it's not going to turn back and will continue to expand."

In typical understatement, President Watanabe denied the company was chasing sales numbers and brushed off a question about breaking GM's industry record of 9.55 million vehicles sold in 1978.

"All I can say is that I am truly grateful for every customer who bought our cars," he said after the news conference.

"I really believe we must never forget this feeling that it's building on each and every car," Watanabe said. More at Detroit News

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