Toyota may overtake GM in global output on United States sales


TOKYO/SOUTHFIELD — Toyota Motor Corp. is poised to top General Motors Corp. in global production this year after the U.S. automaker reduced its output plan because of slumping demand for trucks and sport-utility vehicles in the U.S.

GM estimates it will build 9.285 million vehicles worldwide in 2007, according to the company’s annual plan announced Tuesday. That compares with Toyota’s plan of 9.42 million vehicles, including those by its Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd. subsidiaries.

Toyota’s production increase comes as it threatens GM’s reign as the world’s largest automaker by sales since 1931. The Toyota City, Japan-based company is winning customers in the U.S. with Corolla and Camry cars, and overtook Ford Motor Co. to rank No. 2 in the U.S. market for the first time in the eight months ended Aug. 31.

“We do see them continuing to grow,” Tom Libby, an analyst at marketing-research firm J.D. Power & Associates in Troy, Michigan, said in an interview Wednesday. “A part of that is going into other markets throughout the world, and a part of that is in the U.S. where they are expanding production and also offer very competitive products.”

GM and Ford are cutting jobs and closing factories as demand for sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks falls amid higher fuel costs. Detroit-based GM, whose U.S. sales fell 7.4 percent so far this year, Tuesday said it dropped plans to increase North American production in the current quarter and will cut output 9.7 percent to 1 million vehicles in the fourth quarter.

Toyota is now 6,698 sales ahead of Ford through August after trailing by 330,911 after eight months a year earlier. Ford has been No. 2 in the U.S. behind GM since 1931.