Toyota stayed at the top in global vehicle sales in 2014, taking that motoring industry crown for the third year straight, but was less upbeat about this year.
The Japanese carmaker sold 10.23 million vehicles, beating out Volkswagen and General Motors. But it expects to sell fewer trucks and cars this year, forecasting sales will fall 1 per cent year-on-year to 10.15 million vehicles, according to numbers released this week.
The drop is largely due to a projected 9 per cent plunge in Japan sales. Japan sales had been inflated in the early part of last year ahead of a sales tax hike. Overall, the Japanese vehicle market is weakening because of population decline.
Toyota expects overseas sales to grow 2 per cent this year to more than 8 million vehicles from 7.9 million vehicles last year.
Volkswagen AG of Germany sold 10.14 million vehicles in 2014, up 4 per cent from the previous year. Detroit-based General Motors was third at 9.92 million vehicles, a company record and 2 per cent higher than its tally in 2013.
GM gave its numbers earlier this month.
Selling 10 million vehicles around the world in a year is a milestone for major carmakers. And the race is intense as carmakers increasingly compete in new markets.
Toyota's sales grew 6 per cent in the US from the previous year, 13 per cent in China, and 10 per cent in Brazil, according to the maker of the Camry sedan, Prius hybrid and Lexus luxury models.
Toyota suffered a setback in 2011, when its production was hobbled by the earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan. But it made a comeback as No 1 in 2012.
GM had been the top-selling carmaker for more than seven decades until being surpassed by Toyota in 2008.
But it is Volkswagen that has been racking up stellar growth in recent years, beating GM last year and in 2013. But that year, GM would have won if both companies had been compared without the sales of industrial truck brands, which GM doesn't make.
Toyota executives purposely exude a low-key approach about their global ambitions, stressing the company just wants to make and sell one car at a time.
That humility has been even more pronounced after the carmaker was slammed with a massive recall scandal, fines from US authorities and many lawsuits, especially in the US since 2009. But Toyota is eager to elevate its brand to more than a maker of reasonably priced, reliable products with race cars and luxury models that can help shed its previous staid and boring image.
It is also a leader in green technology, having scored success with its Prius gas-electric hybrid, and is now banking on an even more futuristic technology called fuel cells. It delivered a fuel cell car to the Japanese Prime Minister last week, and is rolling out the Mirai fuel cell, which means "future," overseas later this year.