Toyota Global Sales Fell 13% in 2009

Company sold 7.81 million vehicles last year

Toyota Motor Corp. said on Jan 25 its global vehicle sales fell 13% in 2009 to about 7.81 million vehicles, reducing its lead over Germany's Volkswagen, which enjoyed a record year.

It was a dramatic turnaround from 2008, when Toyota ended the 77-year reign of General Motors as the world's top-selling automaker with sales of 8.97 million vehicles, including subsidiaries Hino and Daihatsu.

Now Volkswagen, Europe's biggest carmaker, aims to overtake Toyota by 2018 as the global number one. VW has reported 2009 sales of 6.29 million vehicles, up 1.1% from the previous year. Last month it said it would buy 19.9% of Japan's Suzuki for more than $2.5 billion, boosting its global expansion.

Toyota -- the maker of the Corolla, Lexus and Prius vehicles -- was battered by the global economic crisis and fell into the red for the first time in the year to March 2009. It has slashed thousands of jobs.

Under president Akio Toyoda -- the grandson of its founder -- who took the helm in June, it has exited Formula One racing and ended a joint venture with GM.

More recently, Toyota's reputation for top-notch safety has been hit by a series of recalls affecting millions of vehicles in the United States and tens of thousands of cars in China.

Last week Toyota said it was recalling 2.3 million vehicles in the United States to fix a problem with sticking accelerator pedals. The action was separate to an ongoing recall of about 4.2 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles that was begun last year due to a risk that loose floor mats could slip forward and jam the pedals, it said. Toyota will also recall about two million vehicles in Europe to fix faulty accelerator pedals, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Jan. 25.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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