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Japan looms large

Giant-killer: Corolla has helped Toyota to global top-seller status.

Toyota's long-term global dominance shapes up as Japanese makers and Ford improve

7 May 2007

AS TOYOTA laid claim to becoming the world’s biggest-selling car company last month – outselling General Motors in the first quarter of 2007 – a number of other Japanese manufacturers announced significant financial results for the full fiscal year ending March 31.

Among them, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation revealed it had returned to profitability (in terms of operating, ordinary and net profits) for the first time since 2002, despite slower sales.

Operating profit was $A406.5 million (40.2 billion Yen), an improvement of $A337.7 million (33.4 billion Yen) over the previous fiscal year.

Ordinary profit was $A187.1 million (18.5 billion Yen) – a year-on-year gain of $A367.1 million (36.3 billion Yen) – and net profit was $A87.9 million (8.7 billion Yen), an improvement of $A1.02 billion (100.9 billion Yen). Sales were down 8.3 per cent to 1,232,000.

There was no specific mention of Australia in the financial reporting, although the "operational measures" here for the coming year include strengthening sales of Triton, Pajero and Outlander and introducing Lancer "to strengthen built-up import sales". The Australian-built 380 was not discussed.

Worldwide, Mitsubishi intends to increase sales 7.4 per cent to 1,323,000 units this fiscal year, on the back of Outlander and Lancer.

Elsewhere, Mazda posted a 28 per cent increase in operating profit (to a record $A1.6 billion or 158.5 billion Yen) and an 11 per cent consolidated net income increase to a best-ever $744.7 million or 73.7 billion Yen.

Global sales were up two per cent to 1,302,000 units, and its projection for this year is a further increase of four per cent to 1.35 million units.

At Nissan, operating profit for the year was $A7.85 billion (776.9 billion Yen, ordinary profit to $A7.69 (761.1 billion Yen) and consolidated net income $A4.66 billion (460.8 billion Yen).

Global sales were 3,483,000 units, down 2.4 per cent. It has forecast an operating profit of $A8.1 billion (800 billion Yen) for the coming fiscal year.

Toyota is still to report its financial position for the year ending March 31, but has detailed its production – which rose 7.3 per cent worldwide to 9,076,968 million units.

For the first three months of this year, it sold 2.348 million vehicles versus 2.26 million vehicles sold by GM over the same period. GM is still number one in terms of production, although pundits believe the Japanese auto giant – whose brands includes Daihatsu, Lexus, Scion and Hino – will overtake the big American before long.

Ford 'progress'

FORD Motor Company last week reported a $A341.8 million ($US282 million) net loss for the first quarter 2007, which is a marked improvement over the $A1.7 billion ($US1.4 billion) loss it posted over the same period last year.

"We are making progress on executing the four priorities of our plan – restructuring the company, accelerating product development, funding our plan and working effectively as one team," said president Alan Mulally.

Ford of Europe, the Premier Automotive Group and Mazda were all profitable over the period, however Ford Asia-Pacific and Africa (which includes Australia) reported a deep pretax loss of $A31.5 million ($US26 million) for the quarter – much worse than the $A2.4 million ($US2 million) profit posted a year ago.

It put this loss down to "adverse currency exchange and unfavourable volume and mix".

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