Toyota Motor Corp said on Friday it expects its group's worldwide sales to expand to 10.4 million vehicles in 2009, up 18 percent from last year, as it grabs a bigger share in mature markets and taps growing demand in China and other emerging countries.

Toyota, along with minivehicle unit Daihatsu Motor Co and truck maker Hino Motors Ltd, sold a record 8.81 million vehicles in 2006, putting the group ahead of General Motors Corp as the world's biggest automaker -- a title held by the Detroit giant for the previous 75 years.

Clearing the 10 million milestone would be an auto industry first.

Toyota is cranking up market share in the big but stagnant markets of North America, Europe and Japan with fuel-efficient cars such as the Prius hybrid and RAV4 crossover as well as entry into the full-sized pickup truck segment in the United States with the Tundra this year.

Toyota, the world's most valuable carmaker with a market capitalisation of more than $200 billion, has been growing even more rapidly in China and Russia, where a burgeoning population of wealthy consumers is driving double-digit growth in demand.

Toyota said it planned to sell 1 million cars in China in the early part of the next decade.

Its challenge now is to repeat that success in other promising markets such as India and Brazil, where it is still a niche player due to a lack of competitive products.

Like many rivals including Volkswagen AG, Honda Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co, Toyota is working on a low-cost car to compete in such markets, but has repeatedly cited the difficulty of balancing cost and vehicle quality.

The world's top automakers are all angling to establish a solid footing in newly emerging markets where the race for pole position remains largely open, and which will account for most of the industry's growth as demand sputters in the United States, Japan, and much of Europe. In 2006, Toyota sold a little over half of its cars in the United States and Japan.

Toyota has been racing to add production capacity around the world to meet demand, and has so far announced plans for new factories in Russia this year, Canada next year and the U.S. state of Mississippi around 2010.