Toyota lowers 2007 Japan sales target, shares fall

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TOKYO, Oct 9 (Reuters) Toyota Motor Corp cut its domestic sales target for 2007 on Tuesday amid a sharp downturn in the overall Japanese market, sending its shares lower.

Executives at the world's biggest automaker as recently as last week had stood by the original target of selling 1.72 million cars, citing hopes for a late rebound with the rush of new model launches.

But with less than three months to go in the year, President Katsuaki Watanabe said the company was now aiming to sell around 1.65 million vehicles instead, 4 percent below the earlier goal.

''We want to go to around the middle of the 1.6-million-unit level,'' he told a news conference to launch the Corolla Rumion compact hatchback in Tokyo. Toyota would aim to boost domestic sales by a double-digit percentage in the final quarter, he said.

Shares in Toyota hit a day's low of 6,720 yen on the news, down 1.6 percent, before ending at 6,760 yen, or 1 percent lower.

Most other carmakers gained on the dollar's overnight rise against the yen.

Toyota's sales in Japan have been sliding along with the rest of the market, where many consumers have shifted to 660cc minivehicles. Excluding that segment, Japan's car market shrank 9.5 percent in September, the 27th straight month of decline from a year earlier.

Toyota's sales fell 4.2 percent, although the smaller drop meant its market share grew to 45.8 percent for the year to date.

Despite the weak sales, Toyota's domestic factories have been operating above standard capacity thanks to brisk export demand.

Stronger-than-expected sales in the Middle East, China and Russia would enable Toyota to achieve its parent-only global sales target of 8.4 million vehicles this year, Watanabe said.

REUTERS SR DS1508

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