Island dispute hits Toyota car sales in China

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TOYOTA Motor Corp yesterday increased its full-year net profit forecast to $9.7bn, despite the damaging impact of anti-Japanese protests and a slowing economy in China.

Sales at Toyota and its two Chinese joint ventures almost halved in September and October, following violent protests linked to a dispute over the ownership of islands in the East China Sea.

Toyota said the impact of the drop in sales would cost 30 billion yen off its full-year net profit. It sold around 900,000 vehicles in China last year.

A spokesman said Toyota had continued to grow its market share in the UK.

Toyota sales rose by 18.6 per cent in the year to September, helping the company to increase its share of the UK market to 4.41 per cent, according to data from the Society of Motoring Manufacturers and Traders.

While Honda cut its full-year net profit forecast by a fifth to take account of the damage from China, and Nissan is expected to follow suit when it releases its results today, Toyota has revised its forecasts higher as it traditionally gives more conservative earnings guidance and relies less heavily on China sales.

China accounts for around 12 per cent of Toyota’s sales, compared to Nissan’s 27 per cent and Honda’s 20 per cent. The backlash in China against Japanese goods allowed Hyundai Motor and BMW to pick up market share.

Toyota increased its net profit forecast for the year to end-March to 780 billion yen, up 2.6 per cent from its previous guidance.

It said full-year operating profit would be 1.05 trillion yen, up from its earlier forecast for 1 trillion yen.

From July to September net profit more than trebled to 257.9 billion yen ($3.2bn) on solid sales in North America and Southeast Asia. A year ago, Japanese manufacturers were still being affected by the March earthquake and tsunami.

“It’s uncertain when sales will recover in China. It’s unlikely to happen anytime soon... I think the market hopes for a recovery in January-March, but I don’t really see what’s going to drive that,” said Kei Nihonyanagi, autos analyst at Barclays Securities in Tokyo.

In its biggest market, the United States, Toyota’s sales rose 16 per cent in October from a year ago, giving it and its Lexus luxury brand a 13.9 per cent market share, up from 12.3 per cent. Toyota said it hopes to sell two million vehicles in the United States, a market it sees growing to 14 million vehicles.

The Camry was the third-best selling vehicle in the United States in October after Ford’s F-Series pickup truck and GM’s Chevy Silverado, and led the mid-sized family sedan category ahead of Honda’s Accord and Nissan’s Altima.

Toyota and its group companies sold a total of 7.4 million vehicles worldwide between January and September, beating GM and Volkswagen to be the top selling carmaker.

Toyota was the world’s biggest carmaker from 2008 to 2010, and could regain the top slot this year after recovering from a series of crises.

Toyota trimmed its forecast for global sales in the year to the end of March – excluding those at its Chinese joint ventures – to 8.75 million vehicles from a previous 8.8 million. Toyota has cut costs significantly in recent years.

There are 14 Toyota car dealerships in Yorkshire, including sites in Huddersfield, Keighley, Hull, Bradford and Leeds.