Toyota's '06 production rises 10%



Meanwhile, Honda has topped Nissan as No. 2 in Japan.
TOKYO (AP) -- Month by month, year by year, Toyota has been closing in on GM's position as the world's top automaker.
What was once a chasm has become a sliver of a gap, soon set to close.
On Friday, Toyota Motor Corp., maker of best-sellers such as the Camry and the Corolla, said global vehicle production topped 9 million in 2006, at 9.018 million vehicles, marking the fifth year straight of growth.
Toyota has gotten a big boost lately from the rise in oil prices that have made drivers around the world turn to fuel-efficient cars.
General Motors Corp. and its group automakers produced 9.18 million vehicles worldwide in 2006, according to the Detroit-based automaker -- 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 and its Japanese units made 8,232,000 vehicles worldwide and GM's production totaled 9,051,000.
"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's target
Late last year, Toyota set a global production target of 9.42 million vehicles for this year, which is likely to put it ahead of GM, which does not announce production targets for the full year ahead.
Toyota has already long beat GM in profitability, 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 and lost 10.6 billion in 2005, but said it will report a profit in the fourth quarter.
Also Friday, data from automakers showed Honda Motor Co. had surpassed Nissan Motor Co. to rise to 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, said company spokeswoman Yu Kimoto, as Honda achieved an all-time calendar year record for worldwide production in 2006.
Honda had been ranked second among Japanese automakers in 2003, but fell to No. 3 the last few years.
Global production at Nissan fell 7.7 percent in 2006 to 3.24 million vehicles, while Honda's worldwide production last year rose 6.6 percent to 3.63 million vehicles.

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