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Q1 sales put Toyota back on top

Top spot: Toyota has edged out General Motors in global sales to be number one for the first quarter of 2012.

Toyota regains biggest car-maker title in Q1, but GM, VW set to overtake by year-end

14 May 2012

TOYOTA’S global first-quarter sales of 2.49 million vehicles places it above General Motors (2.28 million), enabling it to re-claim world vehicle sales leadership.

The figures mark a strong 18.4 per cent recovery after Toyota’s natural disaster-addled 2011, when full-year sales for the Japanese giant fell six per cent to 7.95 million units, enabling GM and Volkswagen Group to overtake with respective volumes of 9.03 million and 8.16 million.

If Toyota can keep selling vehicles at the rate it did in Q1 for the remaining three quarters, it is in with a chance of reigning supreme with 9.96 million sales.

However, it has forecast 8.58 million sales by the end of this year and 8.7 million for its 2013 financial year ending March 31 2013, suggesting the first-quarter spike was caused pent-up demand from last year’s lost production.

It is therefore unlikely Toyota will stay on top when full calendar year sales results come in, especially as GM was up 2.7 per cent in Q1 and VW Group reported 9.6 per cent growth (to 2.16 million units) for the same period.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance also threatens to put Toyota in fourth place, having sold 8.03 million vehicles last year – but the result included 637,000 sales from Russian subsidiary AvtoVaz, in which it does not yet have a controlling stake.

Alliance partner Nissan posted a ¥545.8 billion ($A6.8 billion) operating profit in the 2011-12 financial year ending March 31, up 1.6 per cent – surpassing rival Toyota, which saw profits drop 31 per cent to ¥283 billion ($A2.97b).

For the 2013 financial year, Toyota expects to bounce back to a net profit of ¥760 billion ($A9.48 billion), which if achieved, will be the company’s best result in five years and likely to outgun GM, which posted a $US1 billion ($A999.1 million) first-quarter profit.

Toyota’s first-quarter profit increased to ¥121 billion ($A1.5b) as production climbed 36 per cent, underpinned by a recovering Japanese market in which it recorded 714,000 sales.

The North American market and other parts of Asia (mainly China) also rebounded, with respective first-quarter sales of 604,000 and 433,000 units.

In Australia, Toyota’s first quarter sales were down 1.1 per cent against a market that grew 4.7 per cent, but a turnaround last month saw year-to-date sales increase 3.9 per cent.

The company is committed to achieving a 22 per cent sales increase across its Toyota and Lexus brands in Australia by the end of this year, signifying its best performance since 2008 when it managed a combined 245,563 units.

Growth will be aided by the planned release of at least 19 new or upgraded models for the Toyota brand this year – including the 11th-generation Corolla hatch due to arrive around October.

In an effort to cut bureaucracy and deliver more exciting products in a quicker, more cost-effective manner, Toyota has also restructured its product development process and plans to introduce three new front-drive platforms to be shared across regions and expected to account for half of the company’s global volume.

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