NAGOYA - Toyota Motor Corp. has raised its group-wide global production and sales projections for 2018 to record levels, driven by stronger-than-expected sales in China and benefits from lower auto tariffs there, a source close to the matter said Thursday.
Japan’s biggest automaker by volume lifted the group output target for this year to a record 10.59 million vehicles from the previous projection of 10.40 million, the source said. The new projection represents a 1.2 percent increase from 2017.
Group sales are now forecast at 10.52 million vehicles, up from the 10.50 million projected previously, according to the source.
The latest projections include vehicles produced and sold by minicar maker Daihatsu Motor Co. and truck maker Hino Motors Ltd. — both Toyota subsidiaries — represent all-time high production and sales figures for the second consecutive year.
In Japan, Toyota will boost production of its upscale Lexus-brand sedans and sport utility vehicles for export to the Chinese market. The automaker will also ramp up domestic production of the RAV4 small SUV for export to Europe.
In China, Toyota will increase output of the C-HR small-SUV model and its flagship sedan Camry.
The latest figures underscore the increasing importance of China at a time when Toyota and other Japanese automakers face an increasingly uncertain outlook for the United States market under the protectionist trade policy of President Donald Trump. The U.S. has been the biggest profit-generating market for many Japanese automakers.
While China slashed import duties in July to 15 percent from 25 percent, the United States has threatened to sharply rise tariffs on imported autos and auto parts.
Toyota plans to lift its annual production capacity in China to 1.7 million vehicles by around 2021, from 1.16 million now, the source said, as it plans to build a new plant in Guangzhou and expand the capacity of its plant in Tianjin.
Toyota trails its major rivals in China, the world’s biggest auto market. Toyota sold 1.29 million vehicles there in 2017, compared to Volkswagen AG’s 4.18 million vehicles and Nissan Motor Co.’s 1.51 million.