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NAGOYA (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp.’s domestic output is likely to fall below 3 million units in the current business year, possibly hitting the lowest level in 31 years amid the global economic downturn, company sources said Tuesday.

The automaker is expected to see its domestic production fall to around 2.8 million units, down from 3.4 million units it estimates for business 2008, which ended in March.

If the estimated drop in business 2009 output through next March proves accurate, it would be the lowest level since business 1978, when output was 2.89 million units.

The weak projection is primarily due to anemic U.S.-bound shipments and weak domestic sales, the sources said.

The recession is expected to more than offset brisk sales of the new Prius electric-gasoline hybrid.

As recently as business 2007, Toyota registered a record high domestic output of about 4.26 million units. The latest forecast would be a 30 percent drop from the 4.26 million units for business 2007.

Although the country’s leading automaker maintains that it will not lay off any regular workers, temporary factory hands look certain to bear the brunt of the planned downsizing.

In February, Toyota told its parts suppliers that it would build 6.2 million vehicles worldwide in business 2009, down 12 percent from the preceding year.

Toyota currently produces about 8,000 vehicles in Japan per day, or half the amount it did a year ago.

Japan’s No. 1 carmaker plans to increase the daily production to 10,000 units from May and more in the following months. But it remains uncertain if this scenario will hold true amid the bleak economic outlook.

If domestic production remains at around 2.8 million units, its overseas output would be about 3.4 million units, down some 8 percent from business 2008.

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