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Toyota eyes delay at new US plant

TOKYO, November 14 – Japan\’s Toyota Motor Corp. is considering delaying production at a new plant in the United States due to dwindling sales in North America, a newspaper said Friday.

Toyota, vying with General Motors to be the world\’s biggest automaker, last week said it would review expansion plans as the global financial crisis hits the auto industry hard.

The Japanese automaker is considering postponing the start of operations at a new plant in the southern state of Mississippi to 2011 or later from 2010 as originally planed, the Nikkei business daily said, quoting unnamed sources.

Toyota declined to confirm the report in a statement, saying: "We are reviewing each of our new projects as part of our emergency plans to improve our profits, but have taken no concrete decisions yet."

The automaker decided last year to build the Mississippi facility at a cost of 1.3 billion dollars, its eighth assembly plant in North America.

Toyota had originally planned to produce the Highlander sport utility vehicle at the plant, but later decided instead to produce Prius hybrids as more consumers seek fuel-efficient cars.

But fewer consumers are now buying cars of any sort, in bad news for Japanese automakers whose eco-friendly vehicles have been a worldwide hit in recent years.

Toyota has been careful not to gloat about its success in the United States, hoping to avoid a protectionist backlash.

In October, it said it would reopen three US factories after a three-month suspension, using them to produce exports to the Middle East and Latin America to compensate for slack US demand.

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