Toyota to build affordable sports car

TRAVERSE CITY: Toyota plans to build an affordable sports car that will be launched within the next few years, the new president of the Japanese automaker said Wednesday.

"My hope is I can transfer some enthusiasm from the race track to our vehicles," said Akio Toyoda, a racing enthusiast and grandson of the automaker's founder.

"Toyota plans to build an exciting, fun-to-drive affordable sports car and launch it within the next few years," Toyoda told an automotive conference in Traverse City, Michigan.

"I am very excited about it and I plan to fast track it."

While the current economic downturn has created "some of the most challenging times Toyota has ever faced," Toyoda expressed confidence that the global auto industry will recover from its current slump.

"I am confident our industry will overcome the current crisis and move forward to a brighter future," he said, adding that he believes the US market will "not only recover, but come back stronger than ever."

He vowed to return the company to its roots of focusing on contributing to society and meeting the needs of its customers by producing high-quality vehicles at an affordable price.

But he cautioned that the industry is experiencing its most profound change since vehicles were introduced a century ago and must "change and evolve so we stay relevant to our customers."

"Now is the time for us to seize the moment to be leaders and to work together for the good of our customer and the good of society," Toyoda said.

"By listening to our customer and working together we can better meet customer needs we can reinvent automobiles and we can create the dynamic industry for the next century."

Toyota announced a smaller than expected first-quarter loss Tuesday and upgraded its outlook thanks to brisk demand for fuel-efficient cars, offering another ray of hope for the battered industry.

The world's biggest automaker is still deep in the red, logging a net loss of 77.8 billion yen (817 million dollars) for the April-June quarter -- a dramatic turnaround from a year-earlier profit of 353.66 billion yen.

But it did much better than in the previous quarter -- when it went 765.8 billion yen into the red -- and easily beat analyst forecasts for a first-quarter loss of more than 200 billion yen.