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Tokyo (AFP) Dec 26, 2012
Japan's Toyota group forecast Wednesday a 22 percent jump in worldwide sales this year to 9.7 million units, driven by surging demand which may help it regain the top spot in the global auto market.
Those figures could put Toyota ahead of General Motors and Volkswagen as the world's biggest automaker, a title it held between 2008 and 2010 but lost last year after a slump in sales and production.
Japan's quake-tsunami disaster, floods in Thailand and a strong yen took a heavy toll on the auto giant, whose brands include Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino.
It topped the global carmakers' table in the first half of 2012, accelerating past US-based GM and the German auto giant.
Japan's biggest automaker said it expects to sell about 9.91 million vehicles in 2013, up two percent on-year. It was on track to produce 9.94 million vehicles in 2013, nearly unchanged from this year, the company added.
Toyota said domestic sales would jump 35 percent this year to 2.4 million vehicles, with its overseas annual sales forecast to rise by 18 percent to 7.3 million units.
The automaker said last month it was on track to earn 780 billion yen ($9.1 billion) in the fiscal year to March, up from 760 billion yen, but said sales would be 21.3 trillion yen, trimming an earlier target of 22 trillion yen.
A strong yen and turmoil in key European markets weighed, while a territorial dispute with China hurt sales.
The upward boost in earnings expectations was largely due to cost-cutting, including a decrease in labour and research and development expenses, Toyota said.
The automaker also said it had been aided by robust Asian sales and a pick-up in the North American market.
However, Japan's automakers have seen a drop in their China revenue stemming from a bitter row between Tokyo and Beijing over a disputed island chain.
Tokyo nationalised the East China Sea islands also claimed by Beijing in mid-September, sparking a diplomatic row that was marked by huge demonstrations across China and a consumer boycott of Japanese exports.
Toyota previously said it was expecting to sell 200,000 fewer vehicles in China in the second half of its fiscal year and take a 30 billion yen hit to its bottom line from slumping demand in the world's biggest vehicle market.
Toyota sold 900,000 vehicles in China in 2011.
Japanese firms have also struggled with the negative impact of a high yen which has weighed on the nation's manufacturers by making their products less competitive overseas and shrinking foreign income.
The yen hit record highs around 75 against the dollar late last year and remains historically strong although it has slumped recently as a conservative government takes power in Tokyo.
Japan's new prime minister Shinzo Abe was officially installed on Wednesday after his Liberal Democratic Party triumphed in national elections this month.
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