Toyota reports profit jump in fourth quarter

By Yuri Kageyama From Shanghai Daily| Feb 07 2007
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TOYOTA, hot on the heels of General Motors to become the world's No. 1 auto maker, reported a 7.3 percent jump in quarterly profit yesterday on booming sales in North America and Europe that offset sluggish demand in Japan.

Toyota Motor Corp recorded group net profit of 426.8 billion yen (US$3.6 billion) in the three months ended on December 31, up from 397.6 billion yen the same period the previous year.

Quarterly sales climbed a solid 15.2 percent to 6.15 trillion yen from 5.33 trillion yen a year ago, as the remodeled RAV 4 sport utility vehicle and Camry mid-sized sedan sold briskly in North America, and demand was strong for the Yaris compact in Europe, Toyota said in a release.

Net profit and sales reached a record for any quarter, said Senior Managing Director Takeshi Suzuki. "We believe our company's wide efforts have contributed to these results," he said in a release.

Toyota, with its reputation for reliable, fuel-efficient cars, has gotten a big boost lately from the rise in oil prices. It also is a leader in producing hybrids, which use electricity and gasoline.

Toyota has long beaten struggling General Motors Corp in profitability, but it still trails GM in annual global vehicle production.

Last month, Toyota said global vehicle production topped nine million last year, at 9.018 million vehicles, marking the fifth year straight of growth. Its group auto makers produced 9.18 million vehicles worldwide in 2006 - about 162,000 vehicles more than its Japanese rival.

Toyota, which also makes the Lexus luxury line, surpassed DaimlerChrysler AG as the No. 3 auto seller in the US for the first time last year, according to data from auto makers. Ford Motor Co remains No. 2 in the US.

Toyota kept its vehicle sales forecast for the fiscal year ending March 31 unchanged at 8.47 million vehicles. During the October-December quarter, it sold 2.16 million vehicles worldwide, up 8.9 percent from a year ago.

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