Toyota Motor Corp. faces growing difficulties in achieving its global production target of 10 million vehicles this year, due to plunging sales in China amid continuing anti-Japanese sentiment.
In August, Toyota announced plans to turn out 10.05 million vehicles worldwide in 2012, including those produced by group firms Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd.
Toyota’s current output record stands at 9.49 million units, which was achieved in 2007. In setting this year’s goal, Toyota had envisioned sales increasing in emerging economies and expected those in China to reach 1 million vehicles, a rise of 100,000 from the year before.
But Japan’s nationalization of the Senkaku Islands in mid-September sent bilateral ties with Beijing into deep-freeze and sparked Chinese boycotts of Japanese products that saw Toyota’s new car sales in September halved to 44,100 vehicles, year on year.
A recovery in sales is not in sight and production cuts at Toyota plants in China are likely to continue for some time.
Toyota is expected to revise its production plan downward and started curtailing plant operations in China earlier this month. A senior Toyota official voiced pessimism over the carmaker’s outlook, saying that without cuts in output, inventories will continue to pile up amid sluggish sales.
About 500 people, including members of labor unions in the manufacturing sector, staged a demonstration Thursday in front of the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta, charging that Toyota Motor Corp.’s local marketing unit “illegally dismissed temporary staff.”
Toyota denied any wrongdoing. “There was nothing illegal, given an agreement was reached after a notice was sent to the outsourcing company about terminating contracts,” a senior official of PT Toyota Astra Motor told a news conference. “We have also been providing support for former staff to find jobs.”
Tension between labor and management has been rising in Indonesia.
General strikes erupted in various parts of the country earlier this month as workers pressed for better wages and protested outsourcing.
A demonstration of around 500 people was reportedly staged Wednesday in an industrial park in a Jakarta suburb to make similar demands.
The government is considering rethinking regulations for outsourcing staff.
Prius big in California
Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius hybrid passed Honda Motor Co.’s Civic and Accord, as well as Toyota’s own Camry, to become the best-selling vehicle line so far this year in California, the biggest U.S. auto market.
Toyota, the world’s largest seller of gasoline-electric autos, sold 46,380 Prius models to California drivers in the first nine months of the year, the California New Car Dealers Association said in its California Auto Outlook report. That vaulted the Prius three levels above last year’s ranking as higher gasoline prices drove up demand for fuel-efficient cars.
Recovering sales of cars and light trucks in California are lifting industrywide sales across the U.S., given the size of the state. Registrations through September were up 26 percent in California, exceeding the 14.5 percent increase for U.S. light-vehicle sales, according to the report.
“Gas prices are up 80 cents per gallon in California over the national average,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “That’s really driving up the appeal of hybrids, as well as plug-in vehicles in California.”
Drivers in the state bought 1.25 million new cars and trucks this year through September, according to the report. That figure represents 11 percent of the U.S. total of 10.9 million units. Purchases of Prius models this year in California account for 25 percent of the 183,340 Prius liftbacks, plug-ins, v wagons and c subcompacts sold in the U.S.
Ford Motor Co.’s F-Series pickup trucks are the top-selling vehicle line across the U.S. this year, followed by the Camry, according to researcher Autodata Corp. Nationally, the Prius is only the 12th best-seller among all vehicle types this year, and seventh by sales volume among car models, according to Autodata figures.
The hybrid, which was first sold in Japan in 1997, has not previously led sales in the state, based on California Auto Outlook reports back through 2006.
Disruptions at California refineries since August pushed state gasoline prices to a record $4.67 a gallon on Oct. 9, according to AAA.
While prices in the state have eased, the fuel averaged $4.55 a gallon on Oct. 17, compared with a national average of $3.74, based on data from the largest U.S. motorists’ group.
“Prius is going to stay strong through 2012 and into 2013,” Gutierrez said. “We’re going to get some relief at the pump, but not that much.”
U.S. Prius sales, already at a record this year, may total as many as 230,000, Toyota U.S. Group Vice President Bill Fay said this month.