Toyota Projects First Sales Drop Since 2000 This Year

Jan 21, 2015 06:30 AM EST | Matt Mercuro

Toyota Motors projected a drop in annual vehicle sales for the first time since 2000 as slow demands in Japan, Indonesia and other key markets continue to hurt the company. This means there's a good chance Volkswagen could take the industry crown in 2015.

The biggest automaker in the world said on Wednesday that it predicts 2015 global vehicle sales will drop 1 percent to 10.15 million vehicles. The forecast underscores company Chief Executive Akio Toyoda's determination to guide Toyota through measured, profitable growth rather than chase volumes, according to Reuters.

Toyota has not forecast a drop in sales in 15 years, which excludes a mid-year revision back in 2011, which saw natural disasters halt production temporarily. The automaker didn't provide forecasts in 2009 during the financial crisis.

Toyota saw sales in Indonesia, Southeast Asia's biggest economy, drop to 11 percent last year. The Indonesian auto market is projected to remain weak this year after the reduction of fuel subsidies.

In China, the biggest auto market in the world, Toyota expects growth to halve in 2015 after sales failed to reach their target in 2014 due to political tensions between Tokyo and Beijing and a slowing economy.

China helped Toyota rival Volkswagen last year however, as the company saw sales grow 4.2 percent to 10.14 million, according to Reuters. The company's expansion plans could see it reaching its goal of surpassing Toyota as early as this year, which would be ahead of its own deadline of 2018.

Toyoda announced a three-year freeze on making new factories through March 2016 in order to help the company become more profitable and "leaner."

Toyota believes that its sales in Thailand will increase 0.9 percent to 330,000 vehicles this year, thanks to an increase in commercial vehicle sales. Sales in Thailand dropped 27 percent last year, according to Reuters.

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