Report: Toyota Could See First Sales Drop In Years

Japan's largest automaker will post its first decline in global sales in a decade this year, hit by slowing demand amid the financial crisis, a Japanese newspaper predicted.

TOKYO (AP) -- Toyota Motor Corp. will post its first decline in annual global sales in a decade this year, hit by slowing demand worldwide amid the financial crisis, a Japanese newspaper predicted Wednesday.

Japan's largest automaker will likely sell 8.3 million units in 2008 on the parent level -- excluding subsidiaries and affiliates -- down from 8.43 million units in 2007, the Nikkei daily said, citing no sources.

Demand has been weak in the United States, Europe and Japan amid the global financial crisis and worries over an international economic slowdown, the paper said.

Toyota did not confirm the report. But company spokesman Hideaki Homma said market conditions were "very severe" but Toyota aimed to reach its global sales target of 8.5 million units this year on the parent level.

Toyota is expected to release its annual sales data in January 2009.

The company has been racing neck-and-neck with General Motors Corp. to be the world's biggest automaker by global sales. Last year, Toyota's group sales -- including those from minicar maker Daihatsu Motor Co. and truck maker Hino Motors Ltd. -- rose to 9.366 million vehicles, just shy of GM's 9.37 million.

The Nikkei daily predicted Toyota's group sales would dip to 9.3 million units this year.

Toyota enjoyed strong U.S. sales earlier this year on robust demand for fuel-efficient vehicles, but September sales there dropped 32 percent due to sluggish consumer spending.

Shares in Toyota dropped 6.9 percent to close at 3,530 yen Wednesday. The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average plunged 631.56 points, or 6.8 percent, to finish at 8,674.69 Wednesday on accelerating pessimism over disappointing corporate earnings.

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