Combined sales by Toyota and its affiliates - small-car builder Daihatsu Motor Co and truck maker Hino Motors Ltd - were up 10%, Toyota spokeswoman Yurika Motoyoshi said.

The Toyota figures compare with 6.72 million vehicles sold globally last year by Ford, which had long maintained the number two spot behind General Motors Corp.

While Ford has struggled to benefit from its acquisition of Sweden's Volvo, Toyota has posted higher profits and plowed them into North America, China and Southeast Asia, boosting output and sales.

General Motors is the world's top automaker with sales of 8.59 million vehicles in 2003.

Proton plan

Meanwhile, Malaysia's national carmaker Proton has revived plans to acquire an auto assembly plant in Indonesia as part of its expansion into Southeast Asia and to battle increasing competition under a regional free trade agreement, a report said on Monday. 

The Financial Daily quoted a source as saying that a letter of
intent has been signed by the company. Proton Edar's Indonesian unit is proposing to buy the the Cikarang plant on a 95:5 joint venture basis with Indonesian businessman.

Sources said the saturated Malaysian market and rising competition under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Free Trade Area (AFTA) had prompted Proton to revive the acquisition plan.