The Thai unit of Toyota Motor said on Thursday that it expects to sell at least 160,000 cars this year in the local market, compared with 130,000 last year, Dow Jones reported.

"In view of the strong performance in the first five months, I believe we will improve significantly from last year," Toyota Motor Thailand president told a press conference, Dow Jones said, adding that he said the figure was an initial estimate and not an official target.

Dow Jones noted that Thailand's total new domestic vehicle sales in the year to May are up at 203, 024 units, a 38% gain from the year-earlier period, while Toyota alone has sold 68,288 vehicles in the five-month period, representing a 33.6% market share.

In May alone, new vehicle sales surged 42% on year to 42,751 units, 35.4% of which were sold by Toyota, the report added.

Toyota Motor Thailand vice chairman Ninnart Chaithirapinyo added that overall sales covering all makers are expected to top 500,000 this year, Dow Jones said, noting that, in 2002, 409,362 new vehicles were sold in Thailand's domestic market, up 37.8% year on year at a six-year high.

Dow Jones said Toyota has two assembly plants in Thailand, one in Samutprakarn province manufacturing pickup trucks, with an output capacity of 140,000 units per year, and one in Chachoengsao province, with a production capacity of 100,000 units, manufacturing the passenger car models: Soluna Vios, Corolla and Camry.

Ninnart told the news agency an upgrade in pickup truck production capacity aimed at the export market is underway and that will bring total capacity to 300,000 units per year.

This year, Toyota expects to export 25,000 Thai-made cars and pickup trucks, Dow Jones said.