Toyota Motor raised its global sales target for 2003 on Tuesday, showing resilience to a faltering world car market as it forecast a gradual recovery in the world economy, Reuters reported.

“There are signs that the global economy will recover in the second half of this year after the war in Iraq and the spread of SARS hit the first six months,” Toyota president Fujio Cho told a mid-year news conference, Reuters said.

“The auto industry, in the meantime, is growing more and more competitive, but we will continue to do everything possible to improve our operations,” he said, according to Reuters, which noted that Japan’s top car maker has been boosting its market share in the crucial US market at the expense of the local ‘Big Three’, while stealing sales at home most notably from second-ranked Honda Motor.

Reuters also noted that, last year, Toyota made more money than all of the ‘Big Three’ combined, and most analysts expect another record operating profit in the current business year ending next March.

According to Reuters, powered by solid sales in every major car market, Toyota said it expected global sales to reach 5.85 million units, up 6% from 2002 and 60,000 units more than estimated seven months ago.

For the whole group, which includes minivehicle unit Daihatsu Motor and truck maker Hino Motors, global sales are expected to rise 6% to 6.55 million units, or 50,000 units more than the previous estimate, Reuters said.

Reuters added that the Toyota group has set an internal target of boosting its global market share to 15% some time in the next decade from about a little over 10% now.

In Japan alone, Reuters said, Toyota expects parent-only sales of 1.73 million, up 3%. Toyota’s domestic sales are up about 6% so far this year as it continues to flood the stagnant market with new models, such as the popular Wish minivan, the news agency added.

According to Reuters, Cho said Toyota would continue to push ahead, saying he saw signs of a pickup in Japan’s economy as well. “The Japanese stock market is looking healthier and corporate profits are turning up,” he reportedly said.

According to Reuters, Cho later said that he hoped an economic recovery would help push the total Japanese market for vehicles excluding minivehicles to around 4.5 to five million units in three years from around four million now.

Reuters said that Toyota forecast that overseas sales would hit a record high 4.12 million units, up 7%, as it continues to push ahead in North America as well as promising car markets such as China and Russia.

According to Reuters, to supply all the demand, Toyota expects to expand its global output by 6% from last year to six million units – a record for any Japanese car maker — bringing the group’s total to 6.73 million, up 7%.

Reuters noted that all of the rise will take place overseas, however, as Toyota, along with other global makers, continues to build more of its cars where they are sold.

Domestic output is slated to fall 1% to 3.45 million units, Reuters added, while overseas production is expected to jump 19%.

Exports are set to fall 3% on a parent basis and 2% for the group, the Reuters report said.