Zooming Toyota’s pesky weak link: Japan


Toyota Motor Corp. is set to post record quarterly profit Friday because of drivers in the U.S, China and Europe: Its only weakness is in Japan.

Toyota’s first-quarter net income surged 23 percent to ¥457 billion, aided by overseas sales and a weaker, yen according to the median estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Toyota’s first-half domestic sales dropped 10 percent as the country’s population ages. In response to the decline, Toyota named Akio Toyoda, the 51-year-old descendant of founder Kiichiro Toyoda and a potential chief executive, as head of Japan sales in June.

“It’s becoming more difficult to make a large profit in Japan, as the market is shrinking and people aren’t buying cars,” said Yoshihiro Okumura, who helps oversee the equivalent of $365 million at Chiba-gin Asset Management Co. in Tokyo.

“Toyota is doing its best to boost sales in Japan by introducing more models than rivals.”

President Katsuaki Watanabe is spending a record ¥940 billion in research and development this business year. The carmaker brought out 11 new or redesigned cars in Japan in the last 16 months.