, TOKYO, Dec 22 – Japan’s biggest carmaker Toyota said on Thursday it would aim to boost global sales by a fifth next year, seeking growth in emerging markets to counter sluggish demand in the crisis-hit developed world.
A dismal 2011, which saw group sales shrink six percent, means the Japanese giant is unlikely to retain its spot as global top dog and will be overtaken by General Motors and Volkswagen.
The forecasts come weeks after Toyota more than halved its full-year net profit outlook as it grapples with a strong yen, the impact of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and record flooding in Thailand, which hit demand.
But the company is hoping for a bumper 2012 both at home and abroad, setting ambitious sales and production targets.
The automaker expects to sell 8.48 million units worldwide in 2012, and plans to boost global production by almost a quarter to a record 8.65 million vehicles.
A statement said the firm would then look to further increase its total output to 8.98 million in 2013.
A turbulent 2011, in which the global economic slowdown also dragged, is expected to show domestic sales slumped 19 percent across the group – including subsidiaries Daihatsu and Hino – with a 24 percent fall in sales of the Toyota brand alone.
Worldwide group sales are expected to show a six percent fall for the year, the company said, down to 7.9 million units.
Toyota spokeswoman Amiko Tomita admitted the 2012 global production target was an ambitious one, and would beat its current record of 8.53 million units – for the Toyota brand, which includes Lexus — set in 2007 before the onset of the financial crisis.
The 2012 global sales target of 8.48 million would also be a new record if it beats the current largest sales of 8.43 million in 2007, she said.
“But what we are envisioning behind these figures is different from the time of 2007,” Tomita said. “We will have more focus on emerging markets.”
“We have a global vision to build more balanced business operations in different regions, compared with 2007 when the company focused more on Japan, North America and Europe.”
Toyota said it wanted to further boost its sales in 2013, with a target of 8.95 million units in the year.
The car giant has been at the top of the automakers’ tree by sales for three years after overtaking GM, but looks set to be knocked off its perch.
GM sold 6.79 million vehicles in the first nine months of the year, up 9.2 percent on the year earlier and on target for more than nine million for the full year if it can maintain the pace, Dow Jones Newswires reported.
Volkswagen saw its sales jump 14 percent to 7.51 million for the first 11 months of the year and is eyeing a year-end figure in excess of eight million units.
Toyota’s 2011 production was hampered when supply chains were shattered in the wake of the huge tsunami that swamped northeast Japan, while massive flooding in Thailand added to the production gloom.
Earlier this month the firm cut its profit outlook to 180 billion yen ($2.3 billion), 54 percent down from its August estimate after the Thai floods forced plant closures and caused supply-chain problems.
It also said that the strong yen, which is sitting near post-war record highs against the dollar, had hit it hard as repatriated earnings were severely reduced.
Toyota is seen as particularly sensitive to fluctuations in the yen.
A mood of austerity among Japanese consumers affected appetite for all manner of consumer goods during the year.