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Its 23d straight monthly production increase, prompted by demand for fuel-efficient hybrids and compacts, sets the stage for Toyota to claim the title of world’s top automaker by sales.
Its 23d straight monthly production increase, prompted by demand for fuel-efficient hybrids and compacts, sets the stage for Toyota to claim the title of world’s top automaker by sales. (Justin Sullivan/Afp/Getty Images Photo)

Toyota on track to surpass GM as No. 1 automaker

Demand for small, fuel-efficient cars drives production

TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp.'s global production rose 3.8 percent in September, putting the company on track to overtake General Motors as the world's biggest automaker. It was the company's 23d consecutive monthly advance.

Surging oil prices have prompted drivers to favor fuel-efficient cars, including the Prius hybrid, Corolla compact, and the mid-size Camry, the best-selling model on the US market for eight of the last nine years.

Toyota's total output last month came to 696,594 vehicles, the company reported yesterday. Overseas production climbed 2.8 percent to 340,945 units, while domestic output rose 4.7 percent to 355,649 vehicles.

Earlier this month, the first hybrid version of the Toyota Camry made outside Japan rolled off the assembly line of its Kentucky plant, positioning the Japanese automaker to take an even larger share of the gasoline-electric vehicle market in the United States.

GM in 2005 sold 9.2 million vehicles globally and produced 9.05 million vehicles, compared to Toyota's sales of 8.13 million for that year. The Japanese automaker surpassed Ford Motor Co. in terms of vehicle sales in 2003.

Toyota has said it will boost global sales to 9.8 million vehicles in 2008 -- even as its troubled US rivals are closing plants. Toyota did not release an output target.

Nissan Motor Co., Japan's second-largest automaker, said global vehicle production fell for a ninth month in September, dropping 12.5 percent to 274,788 vehicles.

Nissan said output in the United States fell 18.9 percent last month from a year ago to 60,600 units, largely due to the changeover of the 2007 Altima model.

Honda Motor Co.'s global production rose 5 percent to 318,946 vehicles, its 14th monthly rise. Overseas production climbed 6.6 percent to 199,932 units, boosted by a monthly record in both North America and the rest of Asia.

Domestic production at Honda rose 2.3 percent to 119,014 units.

Mazda Motor Corp. reported worldwide output posted a 1 percent gain to 106,332 units. Its overseas production rose 1.2 percent to 21,420 vehicles on increased production of the Mazda6 and Premacy models, including a strong demand in China.

Mazda, which is 33 percent owned by Ford, said production in Japan rose 1 percent to 84,912 units -- the 11th straight month of higher domestic production.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said worldwide output fell 15.4 percent to 106,666 vehicles. Domestic production slipped 5.4 percent to 62,812 units while overseas output fell 26.5 percent to 43,854 units.

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