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BEIJING, Nov 15 (Reuters) - A top executive at Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Wednesday he expected China to become a big market for pickup trucks one day as income levels among the country's huge rural population grows.

"We have to start studying (the market)," said Executive Vice President Yoshimi Inaba, the Japanese auto maker's highest-ranking official in charge of Chinese operations.

"When the rural part develops and incomes go up a little bit, I think there will be a good market for pickups," he told an industry conference in Beijing before China's biggest annual auto show starting next week.


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The Chinese car market -- now the world's second biggest -- is fragmented with more than 30 brands, but almost all demand lies in the traditional sedan segment.

The birth of a sizeable pickup truck market could present big opportunities for companies such as General Motors Corp. (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Ford Motor Co. (F.N: Quote, Profile, Research), but also for Japan's Toyota and Isuzu Motors Ltd. (7202.T: Quote, Profile, Research), which dominate the Thai pickup market -- one of the biggest in the world.

Toyota, Japan's top auto maker, is aiming to expand its market share in China's passenger car market to 10 percent from the current 4 percent by around 2010 as it plays catch-up to early entrants GM and Volkswagen AG. (VOWG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research).
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