Toyota Motor Corp. outsold all automakers for the fifth straight quarter as the yen’s depreciation sharpens its edge over General Motors and Volkswagen.
Worldwide sales for Toyota, including those of subsidiaries Hino Motors Ltd. and Daihatsu Motor Co., reached 2.43 million vehicles in the January-March period, spokeswoman Shino Yamada said Wednesday.
That compares with GM’s 2.36 million and VW’s 2.27 million.
Toyota has been projecting since late December that sales will climb to almost 10 million units — no automaker has ever surpassed that milestone — in 2013. Since then, business conditions have improved further as the yen extended its depreciation against all major currencies, bolstering Toyota’s earnings prospects and raising its market value by more than $50 billion this year alone.
In 2008, Toyota ended GM’s 77-year reign as the world’s largest automaker, holding on to the top annual sales spot until 2011, when it surrendered the title after production was disrupted by the March 2011 disasters in Japan and flooding in Thailand.
Sales rebounded in 2012, allowing Toyota to deliver 9.75 million vehicles and regain its global No. 1 title as the recession receded and the carmaker added new products.
Earnings are rebounding too. Net income in the business year ended March 31 probably tripled to ¥908 billion and will climb 52 percent this fiscal year, according to the average analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg.
Behind that recovery is the yen, which has tumbled 19 percent against the dollar since mid-November, when it became clear Shinzo Abe would become prime minister.
“The new government is very speedy and aggressive in their actions,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda, speaking as chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, said last month. “With the moves in the foreign exchange markets stabilizing, there is no doubt a sense that we’re beginning to see a silver lining.”
Toyota’s sales in the U.S., its biggest overseas market, increased 8.7 percent last quarter to 529,444 units, according to industry researcher Autodata Corp.
While the gain helped the carmaker’s share of the U.S. market expand to 14.4 percent from 14.1 percent, the gap between GM and Toyota’s market share widened 0.2 percentage points, according to Autodata.
MMC recalls Outlander
Scandal-tainted Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said Tuesday it will recall its Outlander plug-in hybrid vehicle to fix a motor control defect, after the transport ministry revealed that a special inspection of the automaker found it made a false defect report in October 2011.
The recall affects 3,839 Outlander hybrids produced for the Japanese market between January and March, the automaker said in a report to the government.
The vehicle was released just three months ago, and Mitsubishi Motors has received three dealer reports on nonfatal problems regarding the defect since late last month.
The recall was prompted by an inspection of an Outlander PHEV that reportedly had a overheating problem with its lithium-ion battery. That was followed by two other reports on battery-related problems.
Mitsubishi Motors will likely recall the vehicle again if the causes of the battery overheating are specified.
Meanwhile, transport ministry officials said Tuesday that a special inspection of Mitsubishi Motors in late 2012 found that the automaker made a false report on a vehicle defect in October 2011.
Mitsubishi Motors received six customer reports on the same defect in 5½ years starting in April 2006 but told the ministry there had been no defect, they said.
From November 2011 to last December, however, Mitsubishi Motors recalled 1.76 million minivehicles nationwide as instructed by the ministry.
The special inspection also found that Mitsubishi Motors failed to collect sufficient information on vehicle defects, ministry officials said.
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