Toyota lowers target

TOKYO — Toyota lowered its global vehicle sales plan for this year to 9.5 million vehicles, down from 9.85 million, as the sluggish North American market slows the automaker's momentum.

Even with the lower number announced Monday, Toyota Motor Corp. plans to sell more vehicles worldwide than it did last year.

But the pace of that growth has slowed considerably. Under the new target it would inch up 1 percent, in contrast to a 6 percent climb in 2007, when it sold 9.37 million vehicles.

”The main reason for the change came from the faltering U.S. economy, and how rising oil prices and material costs are dampening the market there overall,“ said Toyota spokeswoman Kayo Doi.

The Japanese and western European markets were also sluggish, but Toyota's solid sales in China, the Middle East and other markets were enough to maintain its worldwide growth, she said.

Toyota now plans to sell 2.44 million vehicles in the United States, far less upbeat than the earlier plan to sell 2.64 million vehicles.

The new plan marks a nearly 7 percent drop from Toyota's 2007 U.S. sales results of 2.62 million vehicles. Prior to Monday's revision, Toyota had expected sales to grow in the United States.

The manufacturer also lowered its global production plan for this year to 9.5 million vehicles — unchanged from the previous year.

Earlier, it had set the manufacturing target at 9.95 million vehicles.

Tatsuo Yoshida, auto analyst with UBS Securities Japan in Tokyo, said woes over U.S. auto sales weren't likely to ease until next year.

”I think Toyota is giving rather cautious targets,“ he said. ”GM is in a worse state in reliance on trucks, but Toyota also has the same problem.“