• The Associated Press

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Toyota’s top U.S. executive will meet with the Obama administration’s auto industry task force next week, but won’t be asking for help, the automaker said Thursday.

Toyota Motor Sales USA President Jim Lentz will visit the White House next week to talk, not make requests, said Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi.

Like other automakers, Toyota’s U.S. sales have been battered by the recession and credit crunch, plunging 40 percent alone in February compared with the previous year.

Toyota’s financing unit, which does most of its business in the U.S., is in talks with the state-backed Japan Bank for International Cooperation on a possible loan.

Toyota is expecting a ¥350 billion loss for the fiscal year through March — its first annual net loss since 1950.

President Barack Obama’s auto task force has been trying to restructure General Motors Corp. and Chrysler by March 31. If his administration fails to approve their turnaround plans by then, earlier loans could be recalled and the firms could be forced into bankruptcy.

Imports plunge 34%

Kyodo News

Sales of imported motor vehicles, including Japanese cars built abroad, dived 33.9 percent in February from the same month last year to 12,350 units, the Japan Automobile Importers Association said Thursday.

Sales of foreign brands fell 34.0 percent to 10,833 units, while those of Japanese vehicles slid 33.2 percent to 1,517, the association said.

Although the rate of sales shrinkage softened somewhat from January’s 37.2 percent, the rate still exceeded 30 percent for the fourth straight month.

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