As reported Thursday by CNBC's Phil LeBeau, Toyota Motor expects to produce a record 9.42 million vehicles in 2007 -- a 4% rise that should see it overtake General Motors as the world's biggest automaker.
As the Japanese firm lures buyers worldwide with cars that are safe, affordable and fuel efficient, U.S. rivals GM and Ford Motor battle falling market share, closing factories and shedding thousands of jobs.
Soaring fuel prices have battered Detroit's auto heartland, with customers shunning gas-guzzling pickups in favor of cheaper-to-run models from Japanese and South Korean car makers.
Toyota, which makes the Camry, Yaris and popular Prius hybrid cars, has overtaken Chrysler in the U.S. and is expected to pass Ford next year, market forecaster Edmunds.com says.
In the first 11 months of this year, Ford had a 16.6% share of the U.S. market, while Toyota's share was 15.3%. Ford has said it expects its U.S. market share to slip to 14-15% next year.
The Toyota group, which includes minivehicle maker Daihatsu Motor and truck maker Hino Motors, forecast 2007 global sales for the group of 9.34 million vehicles next year, up from an estimated 8.80 million units this year.
No GM Forecast
GM does not provide sales or production forecasts on an annual basis. Adding GM's January-September global sales to its production plans for the current quarter puts its 2006 volume at 9.168 million vehicles.