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Toyota forecasts 8 percent sales growth

TOYOTA Motor Corp expects sales growth will slow to 8 percent in its venture with China's FAW Group Co this year after a 25 percent jump last year as the economic slide continues to weaken vehicle demand.

The Tianjin-headquartered FAW Toyota aims to sell 380,000 vehicles this year nationwide, compared to 350,000 units last year, the company said. Last year's sales fell below an earlier target of 400,000 units.

Satoru Mori, general manager of FAW Toyota, expects China's auto market will remain sluggish this year given the sagging global economy but sales may gradually recover in the second half.

He also expressed hope of higher sales from the stimulus package unveiled by the government to boost the industry's slump.

China's vehicle market rose by 6.7 percent to 9.38 million units last year, the first single-digit growth since 1999 as economic downturn affected vehicle demand and exports sagged amid the global financial crisis.

The stimulus package launched by the Chinese government including tax reductions on small cars and subsidies gave hopes to overseas car makers who are striving to increase Chinese sales to offset slumps in the United States.

FAW Toyota said it would start making RAV 4 sport utility vehicles in China this year with annual sales targeted at 50,000 units. It would take on Honda's CRV model. The car maker also produces Corolla, Reiz and Vios in China.

Toyota turned to China after sales dropped 50 percent in the US, leading it to post its first loss since 1955.

It aims to sell at least 700,000 vehicles in China in 2009, an increase of 20 percent from last year.


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