Toyota expects higher US sales for 2008 amid battle for 2007

Business Materials 14 January 2008 22:29 (UTC +04:00)
Toyota expects higher   US sales for 2008 amid battle for 2007

( dpa ) - Toyota Motor Corp on Monday said it expects a marginal revenue increase in the hugely competitive US market in 2008.

The Japanese automaker, which could replace General Motors Co as the world's largest automaker when total 2007 sales are released later this month, also unveiled its new 2009 Venza model, a crossover between a sedan and sports utility vehicle, at the North American Auto Show in Detroit.

Toyota sold 2.621 million cars in the US in 2007, surpassing Ford Motor Co for second place behind GM. A spokesman said it expects sales of 2.69 million vehicles in 2008.

On global sales, GM chief executive Rick Wagoner said Sunday the battle for the world's largest automaker title would be "very close," according to Bloomberg News. GM has been the largest producer for 76 years.

Both GM and Toyota have also been working to outshine each other with new commitments to environmentally friendly cars since the Detroit show opened Saturday.

Wagoner on Sunday unveiled plans to bring 16 new hybrid models on the market within four years and also announced it would buy a stake in bio-fuel company Coskata Inc, a pioneer in efforts to convert waste into cheap ethanol. In the hybrid battle, GM has focussed on developing technology for cars with batteries that can be recharged from regular electric sockets.

Toyota said it was committed to bringing plug-in hybrids on the market by 2010. Toyota has so far focussed on gasoline-electric hybrids like the world's best-selling Prius, but has recently turned its attention to plug-ins along the lines of the plans laid out by GM.

Struggling US automaker Ford Motor Co meanwhile said it was on track with its own recovery plans. Chief executive Alan Mulally said he expected Ford to return to profitability in 2009.

Germany's automakers in Detroit all said they had high expectations for 2008, though weak German and US markets meant the advances would likely come from Asia and Eastern Europe. Volkswagen and Daimler AG-subsidiary Mercedes Benz both said they expected record revenue in 2008.

Mercedes also expected to continue making gains in the United States, and said it would turn its attention to smaller car models.

"We are thinking about what might fit between the Smart fortwo and the A and B class," Mercedes Chief Operating Officer Rainer Schmueckle told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Mercedes development chief Thomas Weber told dpa that high petrol prices had also led the company to consider smaller engines in its existing models.