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Toyota group outsells GM in H1 of 2007

Japan's automobile group Toyota Motor Corp surpassed US auto giant General Motors Corp to become the world's top automobile seller during the January-June period, the company said Friday. Toyota to set up production facility, bank in Russia.

Sales for Toyota group in the first six months increased 8% to 4,716,000 units, compared to a year before, while GM's global sales were up 1.7% to 4,674,000 units in the same period. For the year, the Toyota group is expected to rank the best vehicle seller, according to industry watchers. However, Toyota group's global sales, which rose 7% to about 2.37 million vehicles in the April-June quarter, fell behind GM, whose sales inched up 0.4% to about 2.4 million units. In the Q1, Toyota sold 2.35 million units compared to GM's 2.27 million vehicles, surpassing GM for the first time. Six-month sales of Toyota alone rose 8% to 4.2 million units. Toyota's subsidiaries - Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd - are included in the sales figures.

Production for Toyota and 11 other Japanese automakers was disrupted this week when they were forced to temporarily suspend some domestic manufacturing operations after the strong earthquake that hit the northern Niigata province earlier this week affected auto parts suppliers in the region. The quake that caused fires and leaks at a nuclear power plant forced the shut down of some 50 auto plants in Japan, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Toyota plans to open a new production facility and a bank in Russia later this year, it was announced Thursday. A spokesman for the Toyota KreditBank GmbH in Cologne said Russia had the potential to become one of the biggest automobile markets in Europe. He said the Russian central bank had already issued a licence for the new bank, a subsidiary of the German Toyota Kreditbank GmbH and Toyota Leasing. The new bank, called ZAO Toyota Bank, will begin operations in Moscow this autumn, with an expansion planned for St. Petersburg in 2008, the spokesman added. “Toyota is then first automobile company to set up its own bank in Russia,” the spokesman said in Cologne, where Toyota Deutschland GmbH has its headquarters. “We anticipate that the internationally active financial institutions of other manufacturers will shortly begin operations in Russia,” he said.

The new production facility is expected start operations in Die December near St. Petersburg, where Nissan, Suzuki and General Motors are currently building their own plants. The spokesman said the facility was part of the company's strategy to strengthen Toyota's position in Russia, a market with enormous growth potential. In the first six months of 2007, the Japanese carmaker sold 72,330 Toyota and 6,950 Lexus cars in Russia, an increase of 70% over the same period in 2006. (