Toyota aims to regain top spot

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the world’s top carmaker forecast a 20 per cent jump in 2012 sales to a record 8.48 million vehicles, as it recovers from output losses caused by natural disasters this year.

Toyota is set to lose its crown to US rival General Motors after supply chain disruptions from the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan and flooding in Thailand hit production around the world.

With estimated sales this year of 7.90m vehicles for the Japanese group, which includes units Daihatsu and Hino Motors, Toyota will likely rank third behind General Motors and German group Volkswagen.

Toyota could regain the top spot next year as it builds inventory to meet pent-up demand and adds output capacity in Brazil and China, among other countries.

GM and VW have not disclosed 2012 sales plans, and Toyota did not provide group forecasts.

“The reason they lost sales this year was because they could not build the cars. Now that they can, it is possible they will take back the top spot,” said an analyst at Tokyo-based TIW.

VW is also eyeing the top global ranking, with a sales goal of 10m vehicles in 2018.

The group logged 7.51m deliveries for the first 11 months of this year, after a 15 per cent gain in November.

“Our target to top an annual 8 million units for the first time is within reach,” sales chief Christian Klingler said.

Consulting firm IHS Automotive predicted Toyota will leapfrog VW next year with a 15 per cent sales gain to 8.42 million vehicles.

LMC, known until recently as JD Power Forecasting, sees Toyota narrowing the gap but remaining behind.