Toyota Motor Corp. plans to become the world's largest auto maker by 2010.

In a radical new strategy known as Global 15, Japan's largest car maker recently told a gathering of its world distributors that it intends to achieve a 15% global market share between 2006 and 2010.

Currently, Toyota ranks third behind Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. with about 11.2% of the world's annual new car sales.

A 15% market share would mean producing more than 9 million units, compared with the 6.2 million Toyota produces today.

To achieve its ambitions under Global 15, Toyota claims the next generation of new models, due to begin launch in 2005, will save a staggering 30% in development and manufacturing costs over today's equivalent models.

As part of the plan to increase productivity and take full advantage of its existing production capacity, Toyota's manufacturing engineers claim they've devised a new system that enables the next-generation products to be built on assembly lines that are half the length of today's.

Details are sketchy, but senior executives say the assembly program begins in earnest in 2006.

Toyota believes the primary secret to meeting its target is attractive styling. To emphasize design's newfound status, the auto maker recently moved its design operation out from under engineering and has begun hiring new design talent for its Japanese, American and European studios.

Toyota's Tokyo concept cars bear the first fruits of its new design objectives. Insiders says the beautiful Lexus LF-S sedan sets the overall styling theme for the all-new IS, GS and LS models due in 2005.

In the early 1980s, Toyota put forth a similar program in which it hoped to achieve 10% global market share. That objective was reached nearly a decade ago.

Although it's not the auto maker's stated aim, the new target, if achieved, inevitably means Toyota will pass both Ford and GM to become the world's largest auto maker in terms of volumes. It's already the most profitable.