TOKYO - Toyota Motor Corp., the world's third-largest automaker, boosted its 2002 group global sales target by 3.3 percent on Monday, expecting an increase in overseas sales despite a surge in the yen.
Japan's largest automaker said it expects to sell 6.19 million vehicles this calendar year, up 200,000 from an original plan and 4.4 percent higher from a year ago, on robust sales in Europe and Asia, and a slightly stronger U.S. outlook.
The revision came despite a 12 percent rise in the yen against the dollar since April, a leap that makes Japanese cars less profitable when sold overseas and poses a challenge for automakers that reaped currency gains last year as the yen fell.
Toyota also said it would begin making the Lexus RX300 in Canada next year, the first time it will build Lexus-brand vehicles in North America instead of exporting from Japan.
"Our North American plants now have the capability to build Lexus cars, which do tend to be more complex in design and assembly and so we are trying our hand at it," President Fujio Cho told a news conference.
Longer-term, he said the company may look at building the luxury brand vehicles in the United States as well.
Toyota officials said strong sales of its remodeled Corolla had boosted sales in Europe and Asia and that in the United States -- the most profitable market for Japanese automakers -- sales of the Highlander and the Camry were doing well.
Like rival Honda Motor Co., which reported record first quarter earnings on Monday, Toyota expects U.S. industry-wide sales of about 16 million units this year, a strong number compared with forecasts after the September 11 attacks went as low as 15 million.
U.S. SALES TO OFFSET YEN
The relatively robust U.S. market, where Japanese makers continue to take market share, is expected to offset the recent surge in the yen.
Honda said it was maintaining its full-year outlook of a second consecutive year of record profits while Toyota, which does not give full year estimates, said it did not expect a major impact on earnings for the April-June period.
The auto giant also said it did not expect to see major appraisal losses on its stockholdings despite the recent plunge in the stock market. Toyota will announce quarterly earnings on August 7.
Most analysts also have said Toyota, as well as rivals Honda Motor and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., are still on track to post record profits for the second straight business year in the 12 months to next March.
Japanese automakers have largely assumed an average rate of 125 yen to the dollar for the year, but analysts project the average rate to come in at 120 yen even if levels as high as 115 continue for the rest of the year.
On Monday, the yen was trading around 119.13 per dollar.
And as overseas sales grow, Toyota also said it may have to consider overhauling some production sites in Japan, although Cho said much would depend on how fast the domestic economy recovers.
But he singled out the Motomachi plant as one site that could be considered for downsizing or closing. The factory employs 5,900 people and produces the Crown and Prius, among others.
For now, however, much of the rise in global production plans this year will be met in Japan, until overseas factories are readied for production.
As a result, Toyota's group export forecast was boosted to 1.85 million units, an increase of 270,000. Last year, exports totaled 1.75 million units.
The group figures include Toyota minivehicle unit Daihatsu Motor Co. Ltd. and truck unit Hino Motors Ltd.