Toyota Earns $10 Billion

That's $10 billion with a "b."

Toyota Motor on Tuesday became the first Japanese company to report a net profit of over a trillion yen, or about $10 billion U.S. greenbacks. Toyota's global sales are slightly ahead of Ford Motor Co., but considering Ford earned just $675 million last year, Toyota's number-two spot behind General Motors is solid and gaining.

Toyota executives have said they plan to match GM's 15-percent market share held today by 2015. Toyota's share now stands at about 11.2 percent.

Amazingly, Toyota's market capitalization stands at more than that of GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler combined.

Japan's largest automaker posted $10.2 billion in net earnings for the year ended March 31, a 55-percent gain from the previous year, on revenues of $152 billion, helped by rising sales and profits in every region of the world, cost cutting, and a one-time pension fund gain.

Toyota sold 6.7 million vehicles last year, and said it is out to sell 7.02 million vehicles worldwide this fiscal year. GM sold 8.3 million vehicles last year.

Toyota passed Ford Motor in global vehicle sales last year, though Ford's tally of 6.7 million vehicles did not include any sales from Japanese automaker Mazda Motor Corp., 33-percent-owned by Ford. Ford earned $495 million last year.

Toyota's sales to markets including Asia, Middle East rose by 277,000 last year, far stronger than rises of 122,000 units to North America, 120,000 in Europe, and 85,000 in Japan.

"Toyota is on a roll, boosting sales in America, Europe, and Asia," said Takaki Nakanishi, analyst at UBS Securities in Tokyo.

Toyota sold 1.86 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the U.S. last calender year, up 6.3 percent. Toyota is amidst a national rollout of a third brand aimed at the youth market, called Scion, currently made up of two vehicles with a third on the way later this year, that has sold 17,000 so far this year. "Every global car we've rolled out has been a hit - I've never experienced anything like this before," said Toyota executive vice president Ryuji Araki.

U.S. automakers beef that Toyota's profit is helped by a weak yen. Though Toyota said it lost $900 million last year on the yen's strengthening against the U.S. dollar and Euro, the Bank of Japan spent $190 billion intervening in currency markets at the direction of the Japanese Finance Ministry. The result was the dollar weakening against the yen by only 11 percent while it weakened against the euro by 20 percent.

Japan's healthcare system is also much cheaper for Japanese companies than in the U.S. The Japanese government has been taking pension obligations off companies' books.

Toyota said it gained $943 million last year from reimbursement from a government pension fund.

Toyota said sales outside Japan may rise 6.2 percent this year to 4.69 million units. Sales in North America, the world's biggest automotive market, may increase 3.7 percent to 2.18 million units for the period. So far this year in the U.S., Toyota-brand vehicles are up 11 percent and Lexus sales are up 21 percent.

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