China sales buoy Toyota’s profit, but US weakness persists | 2019-02-07 | daily-sun.com

China sales buoy Toyota’s profit, but US weakness persists

    7 February, 2019 12:00 AM printer

TOKYO: Toyota Motor Corp's quarterly profit edged up as demand for its bread-and-butter car models from cost-conscious Chinese buyers helped offset bleak North American sales, although the firm's shares slipped as it cut its annual net income outlook.

Japan's biggest automaker attributed the smaller forecast to unrealised losses from equity investments, but, in an indication that business was still strong, it kept its full-year operating profit view unchanged at 2.4 trillion yen (US$22 billion), report agencies.

The automaker posted Asian sales of 464,000 units in the third quarter, up 15 percent from a year earlier, as strong demand in China for its cheap-and-cheerful Corolla and Levin sedans continued into the end of 2018.

Popularity of its luxury Lexus brand also helped it buck a broader slowdown in the world's biggest auto market.

Toyota's global sales rose 2.8 percent to 2.71 million units with Asia making up for the slack in North America, where its sales slid 7.5 percent to 680,000 units.

"When one region is underperforming, other regions can compensate for that weakness. Likewise, when some vehicle models are underperforming, other models can compensate," Executive Vice President Shigeki Tomoyama told reporters at a briefing.

"It's a work in process, but as we diversify our markets and our models, little by little we're starting to see this happen."

Toyota shares dropped as much as 1.5 percent on Wednesday, but recovered slightly to end down 0.7 percent in a broader market that was mostly steady.

Toyota has been hit hard in the United States by slowing sales of its marquee sedan models such as the Corolla and the Camry, as well as by its steep discounting to boost sales over the past two years as overall demand stagnates.

In contrast, the Corolla, Levin and Camry were Toyota's top three selling models in China in 2018, outselling larger ones like the RAV4 SUV crossover, as buyers reined in expenses amid an economic slowdown exacerbated by a Sino-U.S. trade war.

Toyota sold 1.47 million vehicles in China in 2018, up 14 percent, and aims to lift sales to 1.6 million this year, even as it and other automakers brace for another tough year there.


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