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Toyota to increase production

TOKYO, Mar 26 – Toyota said on Thursday that it aims to boost domestic production after reducing its stockpile of unsold cars, even though the outlook for the auto market remains highly uncertain.

"From May onwards we hope there will be no suspension in operations," president Katsuaki Watanabe told reporters at a new model launch.

Japan\’s leading automaker has idled plants and laid off workers to cope with the global economic crisis, which has sent demand for cars plunging.

Watanabe, who will hand over the presidency in June to the founding family scion Akio Toyoda, said that the group aims to boost domestic production to 10,000 vehicles a day after slimming bloated inventories.

"Production levels depend on changes in market forces, and while we of course do not expect production levels to take a V-shape, we would like to maintain as best we can a level of 10,000 vehicles," he said.

"But it\’s impossible to estimate the outlook for the market."

The May production target is 22 percent higher than Toyota\’s February output but down 44 percent from March 2008 before Japan slipped into recession, a Toyota official said.

Auto sales in Japan are expected to slump to the lowest level in 32 years in the next business year starting in April, falling 8.0 percent to 4.3 million vehicles, according to an industry body.

Toyota ended the 77-year reign of General Motors as the world\’s top-selling carmaker in 2008 following several years of strong growth thanks to brisk demand overseas, particularly in the United States.

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But it has been hit hard by a slump in exports and has slashed thousands of temporary jobs as it braces for an operating loss of 450 billion yen (4.6 billion dollars) in the financial year ending this month.

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