Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> forecast a 20 percent jump in global sales to a record 8.48 million vehicles next year as it claws back from this year's output losses caused by natural disasters in Japan and Thailand.
Toyota overtook General Motors Co
With estimated sales in 2011 of 7.90 million vehicles for the group, which includes units Daihatsu Motor Co <7262.T> and Hino Motors Ltd <7205.T>, Toyota will likely rank third behind General Motors and Volkswagen AG
The top spot could return to Toyota next year as it builds inventory to meet pent-up demand and adds output capacity in China and Brazil. GM and VW have not disclosed their sales plans for 2012 and Toyota did not provide forecasts for the group.
The reason they lost sales this year was because they couldn't build the cars. Now that they can, it's possible they'll take back the top stop, said Satoru Takada, analyst at Tokyo-based T.I.W.
But it depends on which markets the growth will come from, he said, noting that Toyota was dominant in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, but it faces tougher competition in markets like China and South America.
Toyota's parent-only plan for 2012 exceeds the peak of 8.43 million vehicles marked in 2007.
TURNING A CORNER
Toyota, once the envy of the auto industry, has had a tough two years, starting with a quality crisis that led to the recall of more than 10 million vehicles globally, a tarnished image and a subsequent slide in sales.
Just as it was starting to turn a corner from that crisis, the March 11 quake and tsunami that destroyed hundreds of kilometres of Japan's northeastern coastline forced it and other domestic automakers to suspend and reduce output for months.
In October, damage to suppliers from Thailand's floods did the same, hampering plans to make up for earlier output losses.
Production disrupted by the Thai floods has mostly returned to normal, leaving output at factories only in Japan and Thailand reduced.
But Toyota has also lagged because of a relatively slow push into emerging markets as it scrambled to meet runaway demand in mature markets such as North America in the years leading up to the global financial crisis.
Toyota has outlined a strategy under which it wants to sell half of its cars in emerging markets by 2015, compared with around 40 percent now.
The numerical plans announced today reflect that strategy, Toyota spokeswoman Amiko Tomita said.
With growth in developing markets such as India and China slowing and Europe in the middle of a debt crisis, some said Toyota's plans may be optimistic.
With these factors in mind, I think some investors are somewhat sceptical that they will reach these numbers, said Fujio Ando, a senior analyst at Chibagin Asset Management. There might be a slight gap between the company's numbers and what investors expect, he said.
Toyota also announced plans to sell 8.95 million Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles worldwide in 2013 and build 8.98 million vehicles. It gave no regional breakdown for the forecasts outside Japan.
It plans to build 3.40 million vehicles and sell 1.53 million vehicles at home in 2012.
(Additional reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Joseph Radford)