Toyota President Optimistic About Global Auto Recovery

But says yen's recent surge may delay recovery

Toyota Motor's new president Akio Toyoda said on Oct. 2 he is optimistic about prospects for the ailing global auto industry but warned that the yen's recent surge may delay its recovery.

The grandson of the company's founder confirmed that, for this year, the U.S. and Japanese auto markets are on course for sizable drops in sales in the wake of the global financial crisis. "But (sales) will certainly pick up in the long run," said Toyoda, 53, who took the top job in June.

Toyota, the world's number one automaker, saw domestic sales rise by 14% on-year in September, driven by government incentives for low emission cars, but it reported a 16% drop in U.S. sales.

The president said he regarded the recent surge in the yen against the dollar as "extremely severe," warning it would be "fairly difficult to return to the black by only raising the number of sales."

Toyota overtook U.S. rival General Motors in 2008 as the world's top selling automaker, but it fell into the red for the first time in nearly 70 years in the year to March.

The president declined to comment on the possible impact of a massive safety recall of seven Toyota brand vehicles, including the ES350, in the U.S. announced on Sept. 29. The company has issued a safety warning affecting some 3.8 million vehicles in the U.S. after a deadly crash in California believed to be the result of a gas pedal that got stuck on a floor mat.

"It is regrettable that four people, who were driving Toyota cars, lost their lives," Toyoda said. "I offer my condolences to them."

Toyota has already launched an investigation into the accidents in cooperation with U.S. auto industry authorities, but Toyoda added, "we have yet to decide on details."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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