Australia is going against the global trend with new car sales on the rise, Toyota chief John Conomos said, according to a report in the Gold Coast Bulletin.

Conomos, vice-president of Toyota Australia, said Australia was poised to break last year's record of 824,000 new cars sales with a likely target of 850,000 in 2003. New car sales rose 6.6% in 2002 while sales are up 3.3% so far this year.

According to the newspaper, Conomos told the Australian Fleet Managers Association that 2003 would be a watershed year with fleet car sales dominated by what he called 'user-choosers', employees who selected their own car which was then paid for by their company.

"The user-chooser market will be the most important sector within the industry," said Conomos.

He said Toyota expected to sell 12,000 of the new Landcruiser Prado four-wheel-drives in 2003 with 34% of the sales in fleets.

The sale of fleet cars had now outpaced private car sales by 52% to 48%. "It is unlikely private car sales will ever dominate again," Conomos said.

Conomos said Australia was going against the trend in the world automotive market, the Gold Coast Bulletin reported.