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12,000 Toyota Etios booked in India in 15 days

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Toyota Motor Corp said on Wednesday it has received 12,000 orders for its Etios sedan in India since it began taking orders on December 1, putting it well on track to meet the car's annual sales target of 70,000 units.

The world's biggest automaker developed the Etios specifically for the fast-growing Indian market, aiming to boost its market share with a first foray into the mass-volume compact segment in the country.

"The number of orders is far bigger than I personally expected," the car's chief engineer, Yoshinori Noritake, told reporters in Tokyo. "We don't even have the car in our showrooms yet," he said.

Toyota will import the engines and transmissions for the Etios until local engine production starts in autumn 2012 and transmission production in early 2013. Toyota plans to eventually export the model to other emerging markets.

Global automakers are entering the Indian market with compact cars to challenge the dominance of Maruti Suzuki India, Hyundai Motor Co and Tata Motors Ltd.

The Etios sedan starts at Rs 4,96,000 ($11,040) for the standard model, still well above the most popular entry segment of cars priced around $8,000.

Noritake, who said he has travelled to India 40-50 times since becoming the car's chief engineer in 2006, said Toyota had no plans to launch a car in the lower segments but instead hoped to build brand loyalty with the Etios to attract consumers to higher-end models such as the Corolla.

Toyota sold 55,000 vehicles in India last year, giving it a market share of 2.4 per cent. It plans to offer a hatchback version of the Etios in April 2011.