Based on its strong technological lead and innovative marketing techniques, Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, hopes to sell more vehicles this year than the last year and thinks the economic slowdown is a temporary phenomenon that will not last long.

In an exclusive interview with Gulf Times, Hajime Sakaguchi, general manager of Toyota Motor Corporation’s Oceania, Middle East and Southwest Asia Marketing Division, said the global market for automobiles has been growing steadily, though there was a marginal fall, the first in 15 years, in sales in the US and Europe last year.

Toyota, which surpassed General Motors last year as the world’s largest automaker, registered a strong growth of 20% in the GCC countries in 2008, compared with 2007, Sakaguchi said.

Asked about his projection for this year, Sakaguchi said Toyota was hopeful of maintaining its growth trajectory in the Middle East, though the figure may not be as high as in the previous years that recorded an average increase of 20%.

Sakaguchi said he believed the world economy will pick up by the end of this year.
“We are certain that our sales in the GCC countries will go up this year, though marginally. We are also sure that starting next year the sales will grow by at least 10% every year.”

Justifying his optimism in the midst of growing concerns about a global slump, the Toyota senior manager said GCC countries had huge cash reserves to offset the liquidity crunch.
“The local governments are able to stimulate the national economy. They are also rich in oil and gas, giving them a strong foundation of natural resources.”

Sakaguchi believes the GCC economies will continue to grow and it will attract more foreign professionals.
“The local population in these countries is also poised for considerable increase.”
He said the GCC stood out for its increasing number of youth, who formed the biggest chunk of automobile customers.

“In the GCC, 66% of the population is under 30 years. By 2020, the GCC countries will have a combined population of 50mn.”

Presenting data in support of his claim for higher sales in the GCC states this year, Sakaguchi said the vehicle density in the Arab bloc was lower than that in the West.
“While the US had 780 vehicles per 1,000 people, it was 360 for every 1,000 in Saudi Arabia. The figure is more or less the same for other GCC member states.”

He said Toyota was most confident about its better performance in Qatar among all the other GCC states.
“Qatar’s stable revenue from its gas sales will help it to tide over any global financial crunch.”
Sakaguchi said Toyota had an edge over other carmakers particularly in the field of innovation. “Our products are attractive, both technology and price-wise,” he maintained.

Andrew Willis, group manager, TMC Australia, Tadashi Asazuma, assistant general manager, sales and marketing, TMC Bahrain office and P Pankajan, assistant commercial manager, Abdullah Abdulghani & Bros Co, Toyota distributors in Qatar, were also present at the briefing held in Dubai.

Gulf Times

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