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Toyota’s top U.S. exec says politics won’t change business plan

Toyota Motor Corp. is mindful that its gains at the expense of U.S. automakers could have political ramifications in the new Democratic-controlled Congress, but the company’s top North American executive says that won’t change its business plan.

In an hourlong interview Tuesday with reporters in Detroit, Jim Press, Toyota’s North American president, said the Japanese automaker always is looking at the consequences of the disparity between its performance and its U.S.-based competitors.

“The way the issue is played out doesn’t affect the business,” Press said. “The business is you take care of customers. You make investments. Our philanthropy is up. We’re doing more for the community,” he said.

Toyota, Press said, isn’t encroaching on the Detroit Three’s territory, it’s merely satisfying demand for its products, which have better fit demand of consumers than its competitors of late.

Last year, Toyota’s sales rose 12.9 percent to more than 2.5 million vehicles, giving it more than 15 percent of the U.S. market. The company’s best sales year helped it supplant DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group as the No. 3 seller of cars in the U.S.

Toyota’s gains came at the expense of other manufacturers, namely the Detroit Three, because the overall U.S. auto market was down 2.6 percent compared with 2005.