• AFP-Jiji


Toyota Motor Corp. on Friday almost doubled its full-year forecasts, saying sales and production were recovering quickly from the coronavirus pandemic, which has shredded the global auto market this year.

Japan’s top car maker now projects net profit of ¥1.42 trillion ($137 billion) for the fiscal year to March 2021, up from an earlier estimate of ¥730 billion.

It said full-year sales are now expected to hit ¥26 trillion, against a previous estimate of ¥24 trillion.

Results for the first half appeared sluggish compared with the previous year, with net profit down 45.3% at ¥629.4 billion.

But the signs of recovery were clear in the second quarter, with bottom-line profit at ¥470.5 billion against ¥158.8 billion in the previous quarter, when the pandemic was hitting hard.

Carmakers around the world have been battered by the coronavirus crisis, with many relying on government help, as it slammed the global economy into reverse and forced people to stay at home.

But Toyota last week reported both global production and sales hit record highs for September, marking the first gains in nine months.

“I think we were able to recover (in the second quarter),” chief operating officer Kenta Kon told reporters, saying “sales outlets and suppliers made efforts to deliver as many vehicles as possible”.

He said the firm also benefited from a “foundation of measures” put in place since the 2008 financial crisis.

“The impact of the pandemic has yet to be fully erased, but Toyota swiftly recovered in the July-September period,” said Satoru Takada, auto analyst at TIW, a Tokyo-based research and consulting firm.

“While we can’t be too optimistic, both sales and production are still on course to recovery,” Takada said ahead of the results.

“Given the severe business environment, Toyota is outperforming its domestic rivals,” he added.

On Thursday, U.S. giant General Motors reported a 72% increase in third-quarter profit as it cited strong recoveries in the U.S. and China.

German automaker Volkswagen also said last week it booked net profit of $3.2 billion in the three months to September, compared with a loss of €1.5 billion in the preceding three months.

Toyota’s smaller domestic rival Nissan is scheduled to announce its first-half earnings next week, three months after warning of a massive $6.4 billion net loss for the current fiscal year.

Japan’s auto industry is closely watching the fate of the U.S. presidential election, which may create a negative impact, including on foreign exchange rates, Takada added.

The impact of a return to lockdowns in Europe and tightened restrictions elsewhere as coronavirus infections surge remains to be seen.

“For the last half of the year, we will be carefully monitoring the pandemic situation including lockdown,” Kon said.

“We can’t fully predict what’s ahead for the full year. We want to carefully monitor the coronavirus situation.”

Toyota shares rose more than 1% on the Tokyo Stock Exchange after the results were released.

“The market is reacting positively to Toyota’s results,” said Toshikazu Horiuchi, a broker at IwaiCosmo Securities.

“But a strong yen remains a major concern for Toyota and other automakers, which has limited buying sentiment today,” Horiuchi said.

Toyota set a foreign exchange rate at ¥106 per dollar for the fiscal year, compared with ¥103.45 in Asian afternoon trade.

A strong yen often clouds the outlook for Japanese exporters as it reduces their profits when they are repatriated.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda sounded a confident note in a news conference and took aim at rival Tesla, arguing the Japanese automaker was better placed on electric cars.

Tesla, he said, “doesn’t have a real kitchen or chef, they’re trading a recipe.”

“For Toyota, we have a kitchen and a chef … We’re taking action and we’re a full line-up electric manufacturer with real experience,” he added.

“I think we’re one step ahead in terms of being chosen in the future.”

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