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Toyota to Cut 2008 Global Sales Goal by 3.6%

Toyota Motor will cut its global sales target for calendar 2008 by 3.6 percent to 9.5 million vehicles to reflect a sharp slowdown in the United States, Japanese national broadcaster NHK said on Wednesday.

The world's biggest automaker had said it would announce revised sales figures for the tough U.S. market some time this month. A source with knowledge of the situation said Toyota would lower its worldwide sales target along with that.

A spokesman at Toyota said he could not immediately comment.

Shares of Toyota, Japan's biggest issue with a market value of about $150 billion, closed the morning session in Tokyo down 1.3 percent at 4,620 yen. That underperformed a 0.9 percent decline in Japan's transport equipment subindex.

Naoki Fujiwara, fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management, said investors had already sold Toyota in anticipation of a slowdown in demand. He added that the stock was now attractive with a dividend yield of 3 percent, roughly double the benchmark government bond.

"This is a good chance to buy Toyota. The automaker is now laying foundations for future growth," Fujiwara said.

Hit by a demand meltdown for pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles in the United States, its biggest single market, Toyota last week announced a major overhaul of its U.S. manufacturing plans to shift to more fuel-efficient cars.

Despite the U.S. market being much weaker than anticipated due to weak housing prices and record-high fuel costs, Toyota has so far not changed the forecast it issued last December for U.S. sales of 2.64 million vehicles this year, up 1 percent from 2007.

Toyota's initial global sales plan called for sales at the group, which includes truck unit Hino Motors and minivehicle maker Daihatsu Motor, to grow by 5 percent to 9.85 million vehicles this year.

Toyota said last week it would build its Prius hybrid at a factory under construction in Mississippi from 2010 instead of the Highlander SUV as planned.

The weak U.S. market, which many now expect will total closer to 14 million vehicles this year, down from 16.1 million in 2007, has forced Toyota's rivals in Detroit into worse scenarios of factory closures and job cuts.

Leader General Motors on Tuesday announced a plan to cut costs
by $10 billion, suspend its common stock dividend and sell up to $4 billion in assets. It was GM's second restructuring announcement in six weeks.

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