Toyota sees record year in 2012

Toyota forecast a 20 per cent jump in global sales to a record 8.48m vehicles next year as it claws back from this year's output losses caused by natural disasters in Japan and Thailand.

Toyota overtook General Motors as the world's top-selling automaker in 2008 but is set to lose that crown this year as supply-chain disruptions from the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan and flooding in Thailand cut production around the world.

With estimated sales this year of 7.9m vehicles for the group, which includes units Daihatsu and Hino Motors, Toyota will likely rank third behind General Motors and Volkswagen.

Toyota could regain the top ranking next year as it builds inventory to meet pent-up demand and adds output capacity in China and Brazil, among other countries. GM and VW have not disclosed their 2012 sales plans, and Toyota did not provide group forecasts.

"The reason they lost sales this year was because they couldn't build the cars. Now that they can, it's possible they'll take back the top spot," said Satoru Takada, analyst at Tokyo-based T.I.W.

"But it depends on which markets the growth will come from," he said, noting Toyota was dominant in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, but faces tougher competition in China and South America.

Toyota's parent-only plan for 2012 beats its previous peak of 8.43m vehicles in 2007.

"I believe the target is achievable given Toyota is quickly recovering production and launching new models," said Lee Hyun-soo, an analyst at Kiwoom Securities in Seoul.

"There will be cut-throat competition between Toyota, GM and Volkswagen for the top spot in the global market next year."

Toyota's president, Akio Toyoda, has said he was not interested in a race to be the biggest automaker, while VW has a goal of selling 10 million vehicles to grab the title by 2018.

Measured by stock value, Toyota is way above its rivals, at $111bn (£71bn) - more than VW and GM combined.