Toyota Motor on Friday forecast its group sales worldwide would rise to 10.4m vehicles in 2009, up 18% on 2006 volume.

The automaker would boost its share in developed markets and benefit from growing demand in China and other emerging markets, officials told a press conference in Tokyo.

Toyota, with its Daihatsu Motor and Hino Motors units, sold a record 8.81m vehicles in 2006, beating General Motors as the world’s biggest automaker, a title held by the US firm for the previous 75 years, Reuters noted, adding that Toyota clearing the 10m milestone would be a motor industry first.

According to the report, Toyota said it planned to sell 1m cars a year in China in the early part of the next decade but its immediate challenge is to repeat that success in other emerging markets such as India and Brazil, where it is still a niche player due to a lack of competitive products.

“We have been growing with a well-balanced regional portfolio,” President Katsuaki Watanabe said during a news conference to outline Toyota’s plans to continue growing profitably, according to the news agency. “We believe that offering attractive products in new markets outside Japan, the United States and Europe is the key to future success.”

Reuters noted that, like some rivals, Toyota is working on a low-cost car to compete in developing markets, but has repeatedly cited the difficulty of balancing cost and vehicle quality.

Yet the emerging markets will account for most of the industry’s growth as demand stagnates in the United States, Japan, and much of Europe – in 2006, Toyota sold a little over half of its cars in the United States and Japan, Reuters noted.

Despite the upbeat growth outlook, the news agency added, shares in Toyota are down 15% so far this year, hurt by investor concerns over a stronger yen and worries that turmoil in the US sub-prime mortgage market may dent US demand for cars.

Watanabe reportedly said Toyota would aim to lift its consolidated dividend payout ratio to 30% in about three years, from 23.4% in the year ended 31 March.