HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Toyota Motor Corp. reportedly will to cut its 2009 vehicle sales forecast, reflecting stagnant sales at home and steep declines in the key U.S. market amid the prolonged housing slump and lofty gas prices.
The Japanese car giant /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM +2.94% /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 +2.29% is planning to reduce its sales outlook for next year to 9.8 million cars and trucks from prior projections of 10.4 million, the Nikkei business daily reported Thursday.
The new target would include sales by group companies such as Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors /zigman2/quotes/209422954/delayed JP:7205 +3.04% .
Toyota, which is widely expected to unseat rival General Motors Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM +1.12% as the world's biggest automaker by the end of this year, cut its 2008 sales forecast last month to 9.5 million cars and trucks from 9.85 million.
In the first half of 2008, Toyota unseated GM in the top spot, with sales of more than 4.8 million cars and trucks, compared with GM's 4.54 million vehicles.
Toyota, despite its popular line of fuel-efficient smaller cars like the Corolla and Prius hybrid, is suffering from the same consumer shift away from bigger vehicles that has plagued U.S. manufacturers. Last month, Toyota's U.S. sales dropped 11.9%, joining the Detroit automakers in the steep industry pullback. See full story.
The sales pinch has led to uncharacteristic bottom-line weakness.
Toyota earlier this month posted a 28.1% retreat in quarterly earnings, blaming not only the sales drop but also a stronger yen and higher raw material prices. The decline is expected to lead to the company's first annual profit decline in nine years.
Toyota's U.S.-listed shares closed Thursday's session up 11 cents at $88.30 but are down almost 17% since the beginning of the year.