The head of Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> said on Thursday that industrywide sales in the United States for this month looked set to be flat or worse than the weak results seen in February.
Annualized sales in January and February were a little above 9 million, and we're hearing that March will be about the same if not worse than February, President Katsuaki Watanabe told a news conference to unveil the remodeled Crown Majesta sedan.
He said he could not tell when car sales would bottom out globally, adding that he hoped governments around the world would offer incentives to jump-start demand.
In Japan, Watanabe said Toyota was not planning to have any factory holidays from May and beyond, when the company hopes to keep daily output above 10,000 units.
Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, has said its global production would hit a trough in the January-March quarter, during which it has idled factories for days and weeks at a time while selling cars from its bloated inventory.
Most global automakers are in the same boat, with sales in the United States, Japan and much of Europe showing no signs of recovering, and financial markets are awaiting cues for a bottoming out of vehicle production.
The head of Japan's steel industry lobby said on Wednesday he expected Japanese carmakers to finish bringing inventory to appropriate levels by June, indicating that production for the April-June quarter would likely remain low.
Shares in Toyota rose 0.6 percent to 3,220 yen after the news, underperforming a 1.4 percent gain in the benchmark Nikkei average <.N225>.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim)