BANGALORE - The Indian unit of Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. expects to sell around 48,200 cars in 2004, up 19 percent from last year, company officials said on Thursday.
Having broken into the market with its hot-selling Qualis multi-utility vehicle, Toyota now aims to sell even more sedans, tapping India's rising household incomes and low interest rates.
Toyota has used a strategy of strong marketing and customer service to take on established utility vehicle leader Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and Tata Motors Ltd.
In 2003, Toyota India sold 31,444 units of the Qualis and some 8,020 of the upscale Corolla in the 11 months after the sedan was launched last February. Some 1,040 of the imported Camrys made up the rest.
"The plan for the year is 35,000 of Qualis, 12,000 Corollas and 100 Camrys a month," K.K. Swamy, deputy manging director of Toyota Kirloslkar Motor Ltd., told a news conference after the company launched new variants of the Corolla.
Swamy said revenue in the year to March 2004 was expected to meet the target of 27 billion rupees ($596 million), up 55 percent from the previous year's 17.45 billion rupees.
Industry analysts say Mahindra's Scorpio model has made competition tougher for the Qualis, which accounts for some 23 percent of the Indian multi-utility vehicle market, estimated at around 138,000 units in the year to March 2004.
Vikram Kirloskar, who represents India's Kirloskar industrial group as vice-chairman in the Bangalore-based joint venture, also painted a rosy picture for the year ahead for sales in one of the world's fastest growing economies.
"We are looking forward to this year because the economy seems to be turning buoyant," he said.
Officials said Toyota was considering a capital expenditure plan to expand its plant near Bangalore, but no decision had yet been taken. A long-term plan to make small cars is also being considered.
Toyota entered the Indian car in 2000 with the Qualis, and later targeted high-end sedan buyers with the Corolla and Camry.
Swamy told Reuters Toyota was still negotiating with steel makers for a new pricing contract after the previous one expired in December. In the face rising raw material costs, the contract had helped control costs in view of a pre-existing arrangement.