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Toyota may surpass GM in 2007

December 23, 2006|From the Associated Press

NAGOYA, JAPAN — Toyota Motor Corp. is poised to become the world's largest automaker. But you didn't hear it from the company.

At a news conference Friday, executives laid out a production target that probably would allow it to steal the bragging rights from General Motors Corp. next year.

But soft-spoken company President Katsuaki Watanabe chose to focus on Toyota's plan to beef up quality control rather than brag about topping GM.

"That's just what the results may be," Watanabe said at a hotel in Nagoya, near the company's headquarters in Toyota City.

Watanabe noted that Toyota's good fortunes had received a boost from an important outside factor: surging oil prices that made its vehicles more appealing to drivers.

The automaker set a global production target of 9.42 million vehicles for next year, marking a 4% increase from the 9.04 million it expects to produce this year and beating the 9.2 million that General Motors is estimated to have produced this year.

The bullish outlook lifted Toyota's stock to an all-time closing high in Tokyo.

Detroit-based GM has not given targets for next year, but it has been forced to scale back production recently after seeing its market share eroded by Toyota and other Asian automakers.

Watanabe also told reporters that Toyota was considering adding another plant in North America. He did not provide details.

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