TOKYO - Toyota's global production surged 10 percent last year to more than nine million vehicles, narrowing the gap with General Motors, the world's No. 1 automaker.
Toyota Motor Corp., riding on its reputation for fuel-efficient cars such as the Prius hybrid, said yesterday that it produced 9.018 million vehicles. It was its fifth straight year of growth.
General Motors Corp. produced 9.18 million vehicles worldwide in 2006 - about 162,000 vehicles more than its Japanese rival.
That gap has narrowed from about 819,000 vehicles at the end of 2005, when Toyota made 8.232 million vehicles worldwide and GM's production totaled 9.051 million.
Late in 2006, Toyota set a global production target of 9.42 million vehicles for this year, which is likely to put it ahead of General Motors. GM does not announce production targets for the year ahead.
"Things are going very well with Toyota, and it's likely to achieve its target for this year," said Shotaro Noguchi, auto analyst for Mitsubishi UFJ Securities Co. in Tokyo.
Toyota has long beaten GM in profit, reporting robust earnings, while GM has sunk into the red on massive restructuring costs. GM lost $3 billion through the first nine months of last year, but said it would report a profit in the fourth quarter; it lost $10.6 billion in 2005.
Also yesterday, data from automakers showed Honda Motor Co. had surpassed Nissan Motor Co. to become Japan's No. 2 automaker in annual global vehicle production.
Solid demand for the Civic model boosted Honda's production in North America and China, company spokeswoman Yu Kimoto said, as Honda achieved a calendar-year record for worldwide production in 2006.
Honda had been ranked second among Japanese automakers in 2003, but fell to No. 3 after that.
Global production at Nissan fell 7.7 percent in 2006 to 3.24 million vehicles, while Honda's worldwide production rose 6.6 percent to 3.63 million vehicles.
In December, Toyota's global output totaled 624,219 vehicles, up 4.7 percent from the same month a year earlier. It was the 26th consecutive month of growth.
Overseas production edged up 0.1 percent to 285,931 vehicles, while domestic production rose 8.8 percent to 338,288.
Nissan, which has an alliance with Renault SA of France, said global production in December fell 3.2 percent to 238,332 vehicles, with domestic output declining 6.9 percent and overseas production inching down 0.6 percent.