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Toyota to set up R&D unit

New Delhi, Sept. 19: Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp, the world’s third largest automaker, is bullish about the Indian car market and said it plans to set up a local research and development (R&D) centre.

“The R&D centre would work on software development and application of development,” Atsushi Toyoshima, managing director, told The Telegraph in an interview.

“The car industry is growing, especially after the budget, and accordingly we have revised our sales target to 80,000 plus units from 55,000 units,” said the chief of the Indian unit of Toyota Motors, adding the firm expects to break even this financial year helped by surging sales of its utility vehicles.

“Over the past few months, we have grown at an average of 20-30 per cent,” Toyoshima said. “Add to this, a buoyant economy, good monsoon, positive sentiment and the future looks very promising.”

The budget for the financial year to March 2004 had cut excise duty or production tax on cars, utility vehicles and tyres to 24 per cent from 32 per cent which had fuelled a demand surge in the small but fast growing industry.

As part of the overall tax reforms, the government had also reduced the peak rate of customs duty to 25 per cent from 30 per cent in this year’s budget.

The chief said he expects the government to further cut production tax and also reduce customs duty.

Asked if the Indian market has matured enough for the introduction of hybrid petrol-electric vehicles, Toyoshima said Toyota Motors was analysing the products but there is “still some time for the market to develop”.

“This is the base for future generation of cars but we have to see whether this is (commercially) viable for India (at this point of time),” he said.

The car maker, which is located on the outskirts of Bangalore and employs around 2,300 people, expects to post a 57 per cent rise in revenues to Rs 2,700 crore in the current financial year.

“We hope to post some profit in this year also,” said Toyoshima.

Toyota makes Qualis utility vehicles, the mid-size Corolla family cars and imports Camry sedans. Between January and August, the car-maker had sold more than 19,800 Qualis vehicles.

Its main competitors in the utility vehicle segment are Mahindra and Mahindra which controls about 47 per cent and Tata Motors Ltd, which has 23 per cent of the market.

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