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Cruising: Toyota aims to sell a record 8.48 million vehicles next year. Courtesy Karl Jeffs
Cruising: Toyota aims to sell a record 8.48 million vehicles next year. Courtesy Karl Jeffs

Toyota aims for smoother ride

Toyota aims to boost production of its vehicles by 20 per cent next year, as it looks to the Middle East and other international markets for a sales jump.

After a couple of bumpy years, Toyota is boosting production 20 per cent next year, as the car maker looks to international markets such as the UAE to help drive future growth.

Toyota aims to sell a record 8.48 million vehicles next year, with a 82 per cent of that volume forecast to be sold outside of its home market of Japan.

Within the UAE, sales have already risen 19 per cent compared with a year ago, and the company's market share here stands at about 40 per cent, according to Al-Futtaim Motors, the official distributor of Toyota in the Emirates.

"Toyota in the UAE still maintains its leadership position," said Andrew Squires, the general manager for national sales operations at Al-Futtaim Motors.

Sales could have been even more robust within the UAE, though some local dealers say natural disasters caused production problems earlier this year.

Certain Toyota plants were hit in Japan during the earthquake, while some in Thailand were more recently affected by flooding.

Last year, the manufacturer's reputation took a major dent following safety concerns that led to millions of Toyota's vehicles being recalled.

All of this, analysts say, fuelled the perfect storm for disappointing car sales in many parts of the world. Globally, vehicle sales at Toyota fell 6 per cent this year, to 7.9 million, while worldwide production dropped 7 per cent.

Earlier this month the company halved its profit forecast for its fiscal year, to 180 billion (Dh8.46bn).

While Toyota is set to lose its title as the world's largest car maker this year, some analysts say the company could regain bragging rights next year if sales meet the forecast it released yesterday.

Already, Toyota is the dominant brand in the Middle East and South East Asia, some analysts say, and sales have been particularly strong in the UAE. In October and last month Toyota hit record sales that pushed its market share up to 45 per cent, Mr Squires said.

"This is following the launch of our all new Yaris Hatchback and the release of the 2012 models such as Sequoia, Land Cruiser Prado and Fortuner," he said.

Next year, the company forecasts 25 per cent sales growth of Toyota vehicles.

"I think [Toyota's sales] will be better next year," said Mohamed Kamar, the assistant manager of Al-Futtaim Motors' Toyota showroom in Musaffah, Abu Dhabi.

"If there's good production, we're good. Another natural disaster is the only problem." While expatriates often purchase Toyota models for their strong resale values, Mr Kamar said, many UAE nationals gravitate towards the four-wheel-drive Land Cruiser, which is a popular model for dune bashing. More than 1,000 Land Cruisers are sold throughout the country each month, and the model currently accounts for 53 per cent of the UAE's large four-wheel-drive market, according to Al-Futtaim Motors.

"UAE nationals are in love with the Land Cruiser," said Mr Kamar. "They are just buying it, and not selling even the old models."

At the Dubai International Motor Show last month, Toyota launched a limited-edition version of its Land Cruiser specifically aimed at car buyers in the UAE willing to splash out Dh277,000 for a patriotic ride pegged to National Day. The special model featured local design elements, including emblems with a falcon and UAE flag.

"Our earliest cars, the Toyota Land Cruisers, which arrived in this land during the '50s, became synonymous with the UAE outdoor life, tradition and lifestyle," said Mr Squires.

"We wanted to celebrate this important milestone our own special way."

nparmar@thenational.ae

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