May 9 - Toyota forecasts a tripling of operating profit to $12.5 billion as the auto sector recovers, sees sales up 18 percent this year. Arnold Gay reports.
Japan's top carmaker saw its operating profits fall 24 percent last year, but is forecasting a near tripling in earnings for the current year. The one trillion yen forecast is equal to about $12.5 billion, Toyota's highest since the global financial crisis. Consensus forecasts had been for a full-year profit of around 990 billion yen. Company president Akio Toyoda says it was tough, but everyone chipped in. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) AKIO TOYODA, PRESIDENT OF TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION SAYING: "We've been through some hard times, but thanks to the hard work and cooperation of all our employees, our partners and our buyers, we were able to achieve our projected results of 355 billion yen." For Toyoda, the hard times stretched to three years of lurching from crisis to crisis, ranging from a damaging safety recall that took 10 million cars off the road, to last year's devastating Japan earthquake and Thai floods. But now Toyota looks ready to roll again. Supply chains have been restored, and key U.S. dealerships are humming again amid the recovery in its key North American car market. Toyota expects sales to rise to 8.7 million vehicles this year, an 18 percent rise from last year's 7.4 million. Toyoda says he will concentrate on making the right car. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) AKIO TOYODA, PRESIDENT OF TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION SAYING: "The focus on making the 'right car' has translated into sales volumes and profits. That in turn is leading to investments for even better cars." With robust top-line growth now a given, Toyota will be looking to squeeze further cost cuts in a battle to offset the yen's renewed strength. Toyota has committed to making at least 3 million vehicles a year at its Japanese factories - three times the output of local rivals Nissan and Honda. Analysts say to break-even in Japan, automakers need the yen to stay at 85 or weaker, a level not seen since April last year. Arnold Gay, Reuters.