Home / Companies / Toyota eyes China with new affordable ‘family car’

Tokyo: Toyota Motor Corp. is counting on growth in China, and plans to introduce a cheap ‘family car’ there that will likely sell in big numbers, an executive said Friday.

“But Toyota has no ambitions to become No. 1 in the Chinese market," said executive vice-president Yukitoshi Funo, who oversees emerging markets for the Japanese automaker.

“In big markets like China, the top maker should be domestic," he said.

He had similar feelings about the US market, where he said that General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. should retain top market shares.

Funo did not explain this belief expect to note Renault SA’s dominance in France and Volkswagen AG in Germany. Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker in global vehicle sales, holds top market share in Japan.

Volkswagen and General Motors vie for top market share in China but Funo said that Chinese automakers are likely to get stronger and emerge No. 1.

Funo stressed the sales potential of an entry-level car in China, comparing that to how Japanese had snatched up Toyota Corolla subcompacts during the nation’s decades of modernization.

He did not give details of the planned affordable model, but said that it will be more expensive than offerings from Chinese manufacturers.

Toyota also hopes to increase its dealers in China, Funo told reporters at Toyota’s Tokyo office.

Toyota, which makes the Prius hybrid and Lexus luxury models, now has about 550 dealer shops in China, including Lexus showrooms.

Like other major automakers, Toyota has been hit by the slowdown in mature markets such as the US, Europe and Japan, and it is expecting to lose money for the fiscal year ending March 2010.

Growth in China is one area Toyota where can hope to offset losses.

“Toyota has also benefited from government ecological incentives, which have boosted hybrid sales. But they can run out of steam when the perks end," Funo said.

“Sales can be artificially inflated by scrap incentives," he said.

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