Toyota Motor Corp took the unusual step of projecting a drop in annual vehicle sales on Wednesday as demand slumps in Japan, Indonesia and other key markets — in a move that could see Volkswagen steal the industry crown this year.
Chief executive Akio Toyoda appears keen on steering the company through measured, profitable growth rather than chasing volumes, especially after getting burned by a capacity glut in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.
Toyota said it expects the 2015 global vehicle sales, including those of subsidiaries Daihatsu Motor Co and Hino Motors Ltd, to slip 1% to 10.15 million vehicles.
The world’s biggest automaker has not forecast a drop in annual vehicle sales since at least 2000, a spokeswoman said. This excludes a mid-year revision in 2011, when natural disasters temporarily halted production. Toyota did not provide initial forecasts for 2009 amid uncertainty during the financial crisis.
CEO Toyoda has declared a three-year freeze on building new factories through the financial year to March 2016 to focus on becoming leaner and more profitable, even as Toyota took the top sales spot back from General Motors in 2012.
In China, the world’s biggest auto market, Toyota expects sales to halve in 2015 after it fell short of its sales target in 2014.
However, China helped rival Volkswagen clock in growth of 4.2 % to 10.14 million vehicles last year. The group’s aggressive expansion plans could see it achieve its goal of overtaking Toyota this year, ahead of its self-imposed deadline of 2018.
In 2014, group-wide sales grew 3% to 10.23 million vehicles.