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Toyota fighting US woes to meet global sales goals

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[October 08, 2008]  TOKYO (AP) -- Shares of Toyota Motor Corp. plunged Wednesday following a major business daily report that Toyota may have trouble meeting global vehicle sales targets.

But Toyota declined to comment on the report, while Senior Managing Director Yoichiro Ichimaru said his company was sticking with its targets for now, including this year's global vehicle sales goals.

HardwareHe acknowledged, however, that the numbers were becoming increasingly tough to meet because of a drop in U.S. sales.

The Nikkei reported in its Wednesday's editions Toyota's operating profit for the fiscal year ending March 2009 may fall 40 percent. The report also said Toyota may not meet its sales targets for 2008, as growth in emerging markets aren't likely to be enough to offset declines in the U.S. and Europe.

"When we look at our numbers, we see things are very critical," Ichimaru said. "U.S. and Europe sales are getting seriously hit because of the economic conditions."

Speculation has been growing Toyota may lower its global vehicle sales target of 9.5 million vehicles at a time when the Japanese manufacturer has been going neck-and-neck in global vehicle sales against General Motors Corp., the world's top automaker.

Toyota stock slid 11.6 percent to close at 3,280 yen ($33) amid a more than 9 percent plunge in the benchmark Nikkei 225 index for the Tokyo stock market -- the biggest slide in 21 years -- as fears intensified about a global financial crisis.


Last week, Toyota offered an unprecedented zero-percent financing on models in the U.S. to woo buyers after Japan's top automaker posted a 32 percent drop in September U.S. vehicle sales.

Ichimaru's comments underline pessimism at Toyota, which had averted some of the problems at GM, which has posted billions of dollars in losses in recent months.

Toyota has been trying to make up for the plunging U.S. auto market by boosting sales in emerging markets. But the recent declines in Japan, the U.S. and Europe appear to be making that increasingly difficult.

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Ichimaru was among the executives speaking at a Lexus showroom in Tokyo targeting foreign residents, set to open Friday. Although the Lexus was launched in the U.S. about 20 years ago, the brand and dealerships were introduced in Japan only in 2005. Since then, Lexus dealers here have grown to 165.

The new showroom offers foreign language services, including English, Chinese and Russian, to woo foreign residents, who still make up a tiny portion of Lexus buyers in Japan, according to Toyota.

Global Lexus sales are falling short of last year's 518,000 vehicles, and that trend is likely to continue for the rest of the year, Toyota Managing Officer Toshio Furutani said.

Toyota lowered its global vehicle sales target in July from the initial 9.85 million, given in January. Toyota sold 9.37 million vehicles around the world last year.

[Associated Press; By YURI KAGEYAMA]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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