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Toyota Motor Corp. has become the first Japanese company to top the 2 trillion yen mark in operating profits. The leading automaker’s operating profit for the 2006 business year to March 2007 surged 19.2 percent from the previous year to 2.24 trillion yen, a new record for the seventh straight year. Net profit has continued to increase for the fifth consecutive year, jumping 19.8 percent to 1.64 billion yen. Sales have risen for the seven straight year, rising 13.8 percent to 23.94 trillion yen. This stellar performance can be attributed to the firm’s efforts to produce high-quality cars and reduce production costs as much as possible.

The Toyota group sold 8.52 million vehicles worldwide in business 2006, up 7 percent from the previous year. In the January-March period of 2007, the group sold 2.34 million vehicles worldwide and grabbed the world’s No. 1 position for the first time, topping General Motors, which sold 2.26 million vehicles. The Toyota group is likely to retain the No. 1 position through 2007 with sales of 9.34 million vehicles, surpassing General Motors’ 9.2 million unit sales.

But Toyota is not free of difficulties. Its sales in the North American market for the 2007 business year are expected to level off. In China, other makers are in a superior position. While Toyota enjoys an overwhelming position in the domestic market with a record 41.5 percent share, its sales dropped 4 percent from the previous year to 2.27 million cars.

In the 2007 business year, Toyota will pour 940 billion yen into research and development in the belief that development of next-generation environment-friendly vehicles will be key to enhancing its competitiveness. These vehicles will include hybrids whose batteries can be charged with electricity from a household power source, hybrids using a diesel engine and an electric motor, and cars powered by fuel cells or alternative fuels. It is hoped that Toyota will play a positive social role through the production of low-pollution, fuel-efficient vehicles.

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