Toyota Motor Corp. reported Wednesday a record group net profit of 1.37 trillion yen for fiscal 2005, up 17.2 percent over the previous year and the fourth straight yearly rise, thanks to brisk sales overseas, particularly in North America.

Sales at Japan’s top carmaker hit 21.04 trillion yen, up 13.4 percent, topping 20 trillion yen for the first time for the year that ended March 31.

Toyota’s operating profit rose 12.3 percent to 1.88 trillion yen and its pretax profit hit 2.09 trillion yen, jumping 19 percent compared with the previous year.

For the current fiscal year, Toyota forecasts a rise in sales to 22.3 trillion yen but sees a decline in group net profit to 1.31 trillion yen.

The company plans a dividend of 90 yen per share, an increase of 25 yen per share over last year.

Although Toyota’s unit sales in Japan were flat, sales overseas climbed to 5.61 million vehicles in fiscal 2005, up from 5.03 million vehicles in the previous year.

Toyota’s strong fiscal 2005 results reflect robust sales in overseas markets. The biggest contributor to the improvement was North America, which saw total sales of 2.56 million vehicles, while Europe had sales of 1.02 million vehicles.

Toyota, the world’s second-largest carmaker, has steadily gained market share in North America at the expense of the U.S. auto giants.

But not all the news from the Aichi Prefecture-based company has been good lately. Toyota is embroiled in allegations of sexual harassment at its North American subsidiary and the unit’s president, Hideaki Otaka, who has been accused of improper conduct toward a Japanese employee in the U.S., stepped down earlier this week.

“We have taken measures to prevent (harassment) by educating employees to follow guidelines for antiharassment and corporate compliance,” Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said. “That is why we are taking this lawsuit seriously.”

Watanabe declined further comment on the case, citing ongoing litigation.

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