TOKYO Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) said on Friday it would roll out eight compact car models tailored for emerging markets by 2015 in an attempt to catch up to front-runners such as Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) and General Motors Co (GM.N).
Toyota, which lost the crown as the world's top automaker last year, is looking to reduce its dependence on the mature North American, European and Japanese markets. It wants to shift more of its weight to growth markets such as China, India and Brazil, where Volkswagen, GM and Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) have taken the lead.
The Japanese automaker aims to sell half of its vehicles in emerging markets by 2015, up from around 45 percent last year and 18.6 percent in 2000.
"In emerging markets, there are four or five automakers vying to take the lead in sales volumes," Toyota Executive Vice President Yukitoshi Funo told reporters.
"Particularly in the Southeast Asian region, Volkswagen and others are looking to challenge our lead so we can't be resting on our laurels," he said.
Including the Etios model that it launched in India in December 2010, Toyota plans to introduce eight compact cars by 2015, targeting combined annual sales of more than 1 million vehicles in over 100 countries during that period.
The upcoming cars will be priced around 1 million yen ($12,600) or higher and produced in local markets such as India, Brazil and China. Toyota said it would aim to procure 100 percent of the cars' components locally to lower costs - a move that would require a stronger R&D function in those markets.
By 2013, production capacity in emerging markets will rise to 3.1 million vehicles a year, from 2.38 million in 2010, matching the level in Japan, Toyota said.
Funo dismissed a report published in Japan's Asahi newspaper on Thursday that Toyota was working on a car priced around 500,000 yen ($6,300) for the Indian market, to be sold under a new brand from around 2016.
"We won't go to the 500,000 yen segment - it's not our category," Funo said. "We want to beef up our presence in segments where we can be competitive. There are many other options for customers looking in that price range, including used cars."
Funo added that the cheaper segments were the territory of subsidiary Daihatsu Motor Co 7262.T, which has expertise in smaller, lower-cost vehicles.
Carmakers such as Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) and Hyundai are considering ultra-low-cost cars, potentially tapping a huge base of consumers trading up from motorcycles.
Toyota's cheapest car is the Etios, which sells for about $9,000 in India, or double the price of market leader Maruti Suzuki India's (MRTI.NS) Alto. ($1 = 79.4150 Japanese yen)
(Editing by Chris Gallagher)