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Toyota gears up to get ahead of rivals in China

Bloomberg Tokyo

Toyota is adding at least 20 new models in China, where it intends to more than double car deliveries by 2015 from 2011 levels, partly by selling more hybrids and improving customer service.

The vehicle maker projects annual China sales of 1.8 million units in three years, or 15 percent of its worldwide deliveries, Atsushi Niimi, the executive vice-president, said yesterday at a vehicle forum in Chengdu, China.

The company sold 883 000 vehicles in China last year.

Toyota outsold all vehicle makers globally in the first half and leads sales in Japan and the US, while trailing rivals including General Motors and Nissan in China, where rising incomes have fuelled vehicle market growth.

The addition of new models and cars and vehicles targeted at the elderly and handicapped people would help the Japan-based car maker narrow the gap, Niimi said.

“There are people who think Toyota has fallen behind,” in China, Niimi said yesterday. “We want to change the impression from a laggard to a leader in China.”

Toyota’s China sales target trails that of Nissan, which plans to introduce about 30 models and to double deliveries to more than 2.3 million units by 2015. Nissan sold 1.25 million cars in the country last year, 42 percent more than its larger Japanese rival.

Toyota rose 1.6 percent to ¥3 100 (R26 065) at the close of trading in Tokyo, while Nissan was unchanged at ¥722 and the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 0.01 percent.

Nissan said yesterday deliveries in the country had been hurt as it cut back on marketing events after violent anti-Japan protests last month.

Demonstrations erupted in China and Hong Kong last month as Japanese activists landed on an island in the East China Sea, which is part of a territorial dispute.

Nissan had reduced promotions on the advice of Chinese authorities, Nissan chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga told reporters at the forum yesterday. The effect was difficult to quantify, he said.

Naoto Fuse, a spokesman at Toyota, said the Japanese car maker was not seeing any effect on sales from the demonstrations in China.

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