Toyota lowers its worldwide sales goal

Toyota lowered its global sales target for 2009 by 700,000 vehicles to 9.7 million Thursday, showing that even one of the world's most durable automakers is being hurt by rising material costs, a slowing U.S. market and soaring gas prices.

"We have been going at top speed up to now," President Katsuaki Watanabe told reporters at a Tokyo hotel after announcing the numbers. "It is time to set more cautious targets."

Toyota Motor Corp had previously set a 2009 global sales goal of 10.4 million vehicles.

The lower target would still be a 2 percent increase from the company's 2008 sales goal of 9.5 million, but even that figure was cut last month from an initial 9.85 million units.

Toyota has been on such a potent growth track in recent years it is getting closer to ending General Motors Corp.'s 77-year run as the world's top automaker by sales.

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