Toyota's Turkish unit is working on plans for fresh spending to build on an investment programme worth €400 million euros ($US515 million) over the last four years, a top executive told Reuters on Tuesday.

"Production this year is expected to reach 140,000 units. We plan to increase this figure in 2005," the CEO of Toyota Turkey told the news agency during a conference at the company's Adapazari plant in northwest Turkey. "We have invested more than €400 million in the last four years. Toyota Turkey will continue to invest in the future. We are at the stage of working on our investment plan."

Toyota Turkey chairman Shinichi Sasaki reportedly said the latest figures for October showed the company had become the biggest automotive exporter in Turkey. The company aims to achieve exports worth €1.6 billion and amounting to 130,000 units in 2004, he said.

Reuters said Toyota Turkey has produced 335,000 vehicles in the 10 years since the Adapazari plant was founded and invested €700 million over that period. It employs 3,100 people.

The news agency noted the Turkish government said last week it had increased a special consumption tax on passenger cars by up to 9% in a move to rein in car imports, which are seen contributing to a large current account deficit. The tax rise would mean a 5% actual increase in car retail prices, according to officials.

Kobayashi reportedly said the tax hike would hamper the market. "This decision will have an impact on sales and the market will shrink ... It is important that the government makes decisions which produce stability," he added.

According to Reuters, the company had a market share in Turkey of 4.1% at the end of September, putting it in eighth place. The Japanese automaker began manufacturing in Turkey in 1994 for the Turkish market only, but in 2002 the country became a production base for Toyota's European operations.

Annual production capacity has grown to 150,000 units from 100,000 with the launch of production this year of the latest Corolla Verso, a seven-seat multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), or minivan, the report added.

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