Toyota raised its global sales target for this year to 8.58 million vehicles, up 21 percent from the previous year, as incentives for ecological cars lift demand in Japan.
Toyota Motor Corp., which struggled from production interruptions last year caused by Japan's tsunami and flooding in Thailand, raised its forecast for Japan sales Wednesday to 1.63 million vehicles from an earlier 1.53 million. The latest forecast marks a 36 jump from the previous year.
Toyota has been aiming for a comeback and had said in December that it plans to sell 8.48 million vehicles in 2012.
The Japanese automaker behind the Lexus luxury car and the Camry sedan sold 7.95 million vehicles in 2011, down 6 percent from 2010.
Even with the improved forecasts, Toyota is unlikely to be back as the world's top automaker. Last year, General Motors Co. regained that spot, selling 9.03 million vehicles, the crown it had for seven decades before losing it to Toyota in 2008.
Toyota finished fourth in 2011 with 7.9 million vehicles sold. Its sales were hurt last year because the March earthquake in Japan slowed its factories, and dealers ran short of cars to sell.
Auto industry analysts predict a tight race this year between GM, Volkswagen AG of Germany, Toyota and the joint venture between Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA.
In 2011, Volkswagen took second place with record global sales of 8.16 million, up 14 percent from the year before. The French-Japanese alliance of Renault and Nissan was third, selling 8.03 million vehicles.
Toyota's Prius gas-electric hybrid and other ecological cars have been a hit with Japanese consumers despite a languishing auto market overall because of government-backed subsidies. The Prius was Japan's top-selling vehicle in 2011 for the third straight year.
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