Toyota expects vehicle sales in Thailand to rise 7.4% in 2011 following the boom last year when sales grew 45.8% on increasing consumer confidence and an improving economy.

Thailand is Southeast Asia's biggest car market and a regional base for vehicle production and export. Toyota plans produce 12,000 of its Prius hybrid models there this year and expects to grow its sales 10.4% to 360,000 unit taking a market share of 42%.

Kyoichi Tanada, president of Toyota’s Thai unit, said: “If the government predicts GDP growth of 4-5%, this definitely means that the auto industry will grow accordingly."

The rise in domestic interest rates may affect the leasing market, but the impact should be limited by sustained economic growth, he added.

Tanada said Toyota expects Thailand's overall auto sales of 860,000 units this year, up from 800,357 last year. In December car sales grew 29.2% to 93,122.

Toyota’s sales hit a record 326,000 units in 2010, followed by Isuzu's 152,787 units and Honda's 14,056.

Tanada said that Toyota is on track to increase capacity at its Ban Pho plant in central Chachoengsao province and expansion is expected to start in September this year. He added that 2,000 more people will be hired at the plant while there are also plans to raise capacity at another of its Thai plants by about 60% to 220,000 units a year.

The company is spending JPY25.5bn (US$308m) to increase production of its global MPV IMV by a combined 100,000 units a year, in Thailand and Argentina, aiming to boost total capacity to 900,000 units by November 2011.