Toyota set to lose No.1 status – but aims to reclaim it

Toyota, the Japanese car giant behind the Prius and Yaris models, yesterday forecast a bumper year for sales in 2012 as it recovers from output losses caused by natural disasters in Japan and Thailand.

But the world’s top carmaker since 2008 is still set to lose its crown this year to US rival General Motors after supply-chain disruptions from the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan and recent flooding in Thailand hit production around the world.

With estimated sales this year of 7.9 million vehicles for the group, which includes the Daihatsu Motor and Hino Motors divisions, Toyota will probably rank third behind GM and Europe’s Volkswagen.

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Toyota is forecasting a 20 per cent jump in 2012 sales to a record 8.48 million vehicles.

It could regain the top spot next year as it builds up stock to meet pent-up demand and adds output capacity in Brazil and China, among other countries.

GM and VW have not disclosed 2012 sales plans, and Toyota did not provide group forecasts.

One industry analyst said: “The reason they lost sales this year was because they could not build the cars. Now that they can, it is possible they will take back the top spot.”

VW is also eyeing the top global ranking, with a medium-term sales goal of ten million vehicles in 2018. The group logged 7.51 million deliveries for the first 11 months of this year, after a 15 per cent gain in November.

Last week, sales chief Christian Klingler said: “Our target to top an annual eight million units for the first time is within reach.”

Consulting firm IHS Automotive predicted Toyota will leapfrog VW next year with a total of 8.42 million vehicles.