Toyota cuts sales target

HONG KONG — Toyota Motor Corp. on Thursday cut its global-sales target for next year by 6.7 percent, as higher gasoline prices and the slowing economy hurt demand in the United States, its largest market, media reports say.

The world's most profitable auto maker said Thursday it expects to sell 9.7 million vehicles worldwide during fiscal 2009, compared with its previous estimate of 10.4 million vehicles.

The revised target indicates fiscal 2009's worldwide sales should grow 2 percent from fiscal 2008.

Toyota said it expects to sell 2.7 million vehicles in North America next year, a level that represents no growth from its fiscal 2008 sales target for the region.

The global-sales estimates include vehicles produced by Toyota and its Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd. subsidiaries.

The announcement came the same day Toyota said it would slash output at its Kyu shu assembly plant by 16 percent to offset slumping demand for trucks in North America and Europe.

The Kyushu plant produces mainly sport-utility vehicles, including the Highlander, and exports about 90 percent of what it makes. The Kyushu facility is expected to produce 370,000 vehicles this fiscal year instead of the 400,000 planned earlier.

Toyota's downgraded 2009 sales forecast follows a reduction in its 2008 sales target last month, to 9.5 million units.

The revised outlook suggests the global economic slowdown has affected auto sales in a meaningful way, probably derailing the solid growth momentum Toyota has enjoyed during the past five years.

The Japanese automaker dethroned General Motors as the world's top vehicle maker by sales during the first six months of this year.

Meanwhile, Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said Thursday that Toyota will speed up delivery of its plug-in hybrid from 2010 to the end of 2009. General Motors' plug-in car, the Volt, is due in showrooms in late 2010.

GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said he expects Toyota's plug-in to debut in controlled fleets and not in large numbers. He said GM will have production versions of the Volt working in a large test fleet in late 2009.