BEIJING (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp. may beat a sales target in China and plans to begin production at a new plant as early as 2011, an executive said today.
Toyota's sales in the nation may exceed an 800,000-unit 2010 target, Masahiro Kato, president of the company's China business, told reporters at the Beijing Auto Show. The new plant, located in Changchun, Jilin province, will start production in late 2011 or early 2012 and have a yearly production capacity of 100,000 vehicles, he said.
The automaker is adding capacity in China, the world's largest car market, after sales growth lagged behind rivals last year.
Underscoring the importance of the market, President Akio Toyoda didn't attend Europe's Geneva auto show in March and flew to China to apologize to customers after Toyota recalled 75,552 locally made RAV4 sport-utility vehicles.
“China has become a big market for Toyota and for all automakers,” said Koji Endo, managing director of Tokyo-based Advanced Research Japan. “It's important for Toyota to have more capacity in a market that will grow.”
The Changchun plant will be operated with joint-venture partner China FAW Group Corp.
Toyota executives have said they expect sales to rise 13 percent this year to reach 800,000 units.
The company, which is struggling to recover its reputation after recalling over 8 million vehicles worldwide for problems related to unintended acceleration, also plans to increase capacity at a joint-venture plant with FAW in Chengdu to 30,000 units from 13,000 units by June, according to Toyota spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi. The plant builds the Coaster and Land Cruiser Prado models.
Toyota currently has total production capacity of about 803,000 units in China.
Toyota's China sales rose 21 percent to 709,000 units in 2009. By comparison, General Motors Co., China's biggest foreign automaker, boosted 2009 sales 67 percent to 1.83 million and expects to sell about 2 million vehicles this year.