Toyota is planning a global surge in sales to dethrone General Motors as the biggest global market share holder by as early as 2010, using its award-winning Prius – on its way to SA – as one of its biggest draw cards.

Toyota is planning a global surge in sales to dethrone General Motors as the biggest global market share holder by as early as 2010, using its award-winning Prius – on its way to SA – as one of its biggest draw cards.

Toyota currently holds ten per cent of the global market (compared to GM’s 15 per cent) and would need to more than double its sales to reach this goal. Targeting mainly the US, European and Chinese markets in its quest, the Japanese manufacturer is already outpacing its rivals, according to reports.

Sales for the Japanese manufacturer in the US and Europe have shown dramatic improvements in 2004 with several companies, particularly in Europe, posting sales declines during the same period.

Toyota’s key is apparently its manufacturing efficiency with about 50 plants worldwide running very close to 100 per cent capacity. According to a report, the company also benefited from its perceived dependability. It was noted too that compared to its rivals, Toyota was well ahead regarding the profit for each vehicle sold.

Increased sales of the company’s petrol-electric hybrids is also targeted, and Toyota aims to sell up to two million units by 21010. The award-winning Prius has been earmarked for the South African market and will be launched at Auto Africa in October before becoming available early next year.

The Prius has been named North American Car of the Year for 2004, 2004 Family Car of the Year and Best Engineered Vehicle 2004. Furthermore, the 1,5-litre internal combustion engine/electric motor combination as housed in the Prius scooped the prizes for the Best New Engine of 2004, Best Fuel Economy Engine, and Best 1,4-litre to 1,8-litre. The jury comprising 56 motor journalists also voted the Prius engine the overall International Engine of the Year winner.

However, expect to wait a while for your local Prius; Toyota SA president and chief executive Johan van Zyl recently said: “The Prius will be the vehicle with the greenest credentials in South Africa, but with sky-high demand in its major overseas markets, local numbers will be limited.”