Toyota gears up to move into the fast lane

The Japanese car maker Toyota aims to step up a gear in 2012, increasing sales by a fifth to a record 8.4 million vehicles.

The fallout from the Japanese earthquake and floods in Thailand have hit Toyota's supply chain and damaged its production facilities, while the strong yen made its products more expensive overseas.

As a result, it had to halve its 2011 profit forecast this month, and yesterday the group added that global sales would be down by about 6 per cent this year to 7.9 million vehicles. That means Toyota is likely to lose its position as the world's biggest car maker, with General Motors and Volkswagen expected to leapfrog it.

Analysts said the car maker could well regain its crown if it meets its sales targets, although even a Toyota spokeswoman admitted it was an ambitious aim.

Lee Hyun-soo, an analyst at Kiwoom Securities in Seoul, said he believed the target "was achievable". But Chibagin Asset Management's analyst Fujo Ando said: "I think some investors are somewhat sceptical that they will reach these numbers."

Toyota plans to step up production by a quarter to a record 8.6 million vehicles.