Page last updated at 07:12 GMT, Thursday, 28 August 2008 08:12 UK

Toyota cuts car sales forecasts

Toyota Prius
Toyota's Prius hybrid model has been very popular

Japanese carmaker Toyota has cut its vehicle sales forecast for next year by nearly 7% as a result of demand softening in Western markets.

It expects to sell 9.7 million vehicles in 2009, against an earlier forecast of 10.4 million. Last month, it cut its 2008 forecast to 9.5 million vehicles.

High fuel prices and the credit crunch are making consumers less likely to buy a new vehicle.

Toyota also said it would speed up development of fuel-efficient vehicles.

Energy shift

As energy prices rise, customers are moving away from gas-guzzlers, increasing the attraction of more energy-efficient models such as Toyota's Prius hybrid.

"We are looking at the current shift towards fuel-efficient cars (in the United States) as a structural change in demand," Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe told a news conference.

"We intend to respond quickly and flexibly to this environment."

The news of the changed forecast barely impacted Toyota's share price.

"For the last few months, the company began to say its previous target was impossible and they've scaled back gradually, so everybody's used to the idea," said Nagayuki Yamagishi, strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities.

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