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Motoring news in brief

Toyota to take 11-day production hiatus due to decline in US sales


Toyota is to halt production at its Japanese plants for 11 days in February and March due to a sharp slide in US sales. A 37 per cent slump in December sales in Toyota's biggest market was its sharpest fall in more than 25 years and worse than declines at struggling US rivals General Motors and Ford Motor.

"I never expected the crisis to spread this fast and leave this deep a scar," Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe said.

Toyota had already announced a three-day production halt for this month at its Japanese plants.

A sweeping suspension of domestic production is almost unprecedented. In 1993, Toyota halted output for a day as a strong yen halted sales.

Japanese-built cars make up around 40 per cent of Toyota's sales in the US, where foreign-made cars and trucks have been piling up at ports and dealers' yards.

Car firms everywhere are cutting production as consumers, hit by tight credit, shy away from big-ticket purchases even as companies dangle generous sales incentives.

Domestic rivals Honda and Nissan have both cut output plans by at least 200,000 vehicles for the year to end-March, and analysts expect further adjustments in January-March.

Toyota's Japanese assembly plants built an average 130,000 vehicles a month in 2007, according to latest available data. Toyota plans to turn the 11 days in February and March into paid company holidays, a spokesman said.

BMW shelves plans for coupé CS
BMW HAS shelved plans to turn its large coupé CS concept car into a road-going production model. Despite receiving popular acclaim in concept format and touring motor shows for several years, chief executive Norbert Reithofer said the car did not meet the internal requirements for rates of return. "At the moment we do not need that kind of brand shaper," he said. The low-slung four-seater was intended as a rival for the Maserati Quattroporte and Porsche Panamera.

Stern warnings to young driver

An Australian court has issued a blunt warning about the sexual predators a young driver faces in jail if he does not stop speeding, as authorities struggle to stop teenagers street racing.

"You'll find big, ugly, hairy strong men [in jail] who've got faces only a mother could love that will pay a lot of attention to you," said Magistrate Brian Maloney.

The 19-year-old male appeared in Sydney's Downing Centre Court this week charged with driving without a licence, failing to stop at a police alcohol check point and driving dangerously.

It was his third time before the courts for driving offences, prompting the magistrate's warning he would be jailed next time.

Maloney barred the teenager from driving until 2013, placed him on a 12-month good behaviour bond and ordered him to do 150 hours of community work.