• Kyodo

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Toyota Motor Corp. Chairman Hiroshi Okuda said Tuesday he wants to see Toyota’s share in the European market rise to between 7 percent and 8 percent from the current 3 percent.

Japan’s largest carmaker has set the target for its European market share at 5 percent, with sales of 800,000 cars in 2005.

“(That target) seems to be a bit too small,” Okuda told a news conference here.

Okuda, currently on a business trip to Europe, said he wants to bring Toyota’s European market share closer to that in the United States. However, he did not say by when.

Toyota currently has a market share of near 10 percent in the U.S., with sales of a little less than 1.5 million cars.

Commenting on the euro’s rebound to around 95 yen following last Friday’s joint intervention by the Japanese, U.S. and European central banks, Okuda said he expects some improvements in Toyota’s export earnings.

“But the rebound is marginal. I hope the euro will rise to levels above 110 yen, or possibly above 120 yen,” he said.

He also said the recent surge in oil prices could affect automobile demand adversely if it lasts too long.

Toyota’s American SUV

PRINCETON, Indiana (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. was set to begin producing the Sequoia full-size sport utility vehicle Wednesday for the North American market at its plant in Indiana, company officials said.

This is the first time for the company to build an SUV in the United States.

Combined with the production of the Tundra pickup truck, which started in late 1998, the plant will produce 150,000 vehicles a year, an increase of about 50,000 units from current output.

In addition, the Indiana plant is slated to start manufacturing the Sienna minivan at an annual rate of 150,000 units in 2003.

With those projects, Toyota’s annual production in North America will rise to 1.45 million units from the current 1.25 million.

Hino hypes hybrid

Hino Motors Ltd. said Wednesday it has jointly developed a fuel-efficient truck equipped with a hybrid engine with its largest shareholder, Toyota Motor Corp.

Hino said it has started pre-production testing of the vehicle, driven by a diesel engine and electric motors, and plans to release the 2-ton truck on the market by the end of 2003.

Since 1991, Hino has released its own hybrid trucks and buses, but the new model integrates the technologies of both Hino’s low-pollution diesel engine and Toyota’s hybrid system, they said.

The truck is designed to be 11/2 times more fuel-efficient than conventional trucks of a similar size. Its emissions of harmful gases have been reduced to 10 percent of the current standard, Hino said.

Although Hino has yet to decide the price of its hybrid diesel truck, it aims to keep the price to less than 11/2 times that of its conventional models, which cost about 2 million yen, officials said.

Suzuki eyes GM stake

Suzuki Motor Corp. said Wednesday it will acquire a 2 percent stake in General Motors Colmotores S.A., the Colombian manufacturing and sales subsidiary of General Motors Corp. of the United States.

Suzuki said the automaker will purchase new shares in General Motors Colmotores for $3.6 million to acquire the stake in early October, making it the second-largest shareholder in the Colombian firm.

General Motors Colmotores, which entered a technology tieup with Suzuki in 1986, produces 10,000 Suzuki vehicles a year, including the Cultus compact car and the Wagon R+, and sells them under the GM brand name.

As General Motors Colmotores is expanding production of Suzuki vehicles with the start of the production of the Alto in August, it will use new financial resources from Suzuki to rev up its production lines.

It will be the second time Suzuki has obtained a stake in a GM subsidiary, following Suzuki’s capital participation in a GM subsidiary in Argentina last September.

Auto exports up 8%

A total of 331,015 cars, trucks and buses were exported from Japan in August, up 8.1 percent from the corresponding month in 1999, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said Wednesday.

By category, Japanese manufacturers exported 280,139 cars, up 8.5 percent, 47,063 trucks, up 5.9 percent, and 3,813 buses, up 9.2 percent, the group said.

Exports to other parts of Asia and to the United States continued to rise, while those to European markets saw a slight decrease, it said.

As for two-wheeled vehicles, 106,626 units were exported to overseas markets in August, up 15.9 percent from the same period in 1999, the association said.

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