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August 12, 2009 > Toyota president says new sports car planned

Toyota president says new sports car planned

By John Flesher, Associated Press Writer

TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan (AP), Aug 05 _ Toyota Motor Corp. will produce a sports car that will be affordable and fun to drive as the world's biggest automaker pushes for a return to profitability, company president Akio Toyoda said Wednesday.

He also said his company hoped to make a decision soon on the future of a California manufacturing plant that it jointly operated with General Motors, which announced in June it was withdrawing from the 50-50 venture.

Toyoda discussed in general terms his strategy for reversing a period of losses and slow sales in a speech to the University of Michigan's Center for Automotive Research Conference at a northern Michigan resort.

Earlier this week, Toyota reported a smaller-than-expected loss of 77.82 billion yen ($819 million) for the latest quarter and expects less red ink for the full year than initially projected.

Toyoda said the key to his strategy was focusing on building driver-friendly cars that also meet the need for using less oil and transitioning to alternative fuels.

He said the new sports car would be launched within the next few years. He said it's part of a strategy for turning things around by building cars that customers want.

``We are back where we were 100 years ago, at a point where we must reinvent the automobile,'' Toyoda said.

The NUMMI plant in Fremont, California, established in 1984, employs 4,600 workers. It makes the Pontiac Vibe station wagon for GM and the Corolla compact car and Tacoma pickup truck for Toyota.

Company officials have said previously they planned to talk with GM about dissolving the joint venture.

GM's withdrawal ``has created some extremely difficult issues for us to resolve,'' Toyoda said. ``We are still studying the situation and hope to make a decision soon.''

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