TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp. outsold Ford Motor Co. last year to become the world's No. 2 automaker behind General Motors Corp., preliminary sales data released by the Japanese company showed Friday.
A Toyota spokesman said estimated unit sales for 2003 reached 6.78 million vehicles, up 9.9 percent from 6.17 million the previous year.
On Thursday, Ford reported its 2003 sales slipped to 6.72 million vehicles, down 3.6 percent from 6.97 million.
Toyota spokesman Shinya Matsumoto characterized his company's sales as an "indicator" of rising customer satisfaction but played down the comparison with Ford.
Sales figures do not include vehicles sold by affiliates in which an automaker holds a stake of less than 50 percent, Matsumoto said.
Adding sales by Mazda Motor Corp. - which is 33 percent owned by Ford - to the total of the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker would make it larger than Toyota, he said. Mazda sold 1.02 million vehicles in its most recent fiscal year.
Toyota's sales results include those for truck and bus maker Hino Motors and Daihatsu Motor Co. Toyota owns 51.1 percent of Daihatsu and 50.1 percent of Hino.
GM, the world's largest automaker, sold 8.60 million vehicles last year.
Though Japan's economy remains stuck in a decade-old slump, Toyota is coming off record earnings on strong export sales.
Toyota's American arm said its 2003 sales rose 6.3 percent to more than 1.8 million vehicles - the company's best performance in its 46-year history. For the second year in a row and the sixth time in the past seven years, Toyota's Camry was America's best-selling car.
Group profits at Toyota were $8.83 billion for the fiscal year ended in March 2003.
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