Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s top-selling automaker in 2020, raised its profit outlook by more than 50 per cent, a far bigger shift than Japan’s other major carmakers as it powers ahead in its recovery from the pandemic.
Toyota forecast operating profit of 2 trillion yen (US$19 billion) for the fiscal year through March, up from 1.3 trillion yen set in November. Analysts on average project 1.5 trillion yen. For the October-December quarter, Toyota reported 988 billion yen profit, easily beating predictions for 571 billion yen.
The upgraded forecast highlights Toyota’s growing confidence that it can steadily attract buyers and produce vehicles, even as the industry struggles with a weaker global economy and chip crunch that’s hampering production. It also means the automaker will be able to comfortably achieve President Akio Toyoda’s vow to remain profitable during the pandemic.
If dividing the auto industry into winners and losers, “clearly Toyota is winning,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Tatsuo Yoshida said. An ability to keep pushing out new vehicles like the popular crossover SUV RAV4 in major markets has been key, he said. “Toyota habitually pursues R&D and product development, therefore flowers are blooming for it even in times like these.”
Toyota’s shares jumped as much as 3.2 per cent in Tokyo on Wednesday to trade at the highest since 2015.
Nissan Motor Co. on Tuesday announced a slim quarterly operating profit and forecast a smaller loss for the fiscal year than previously expected . Honda Motor Co. also reported an operating profit for the quarter and raised its outlook for the fiscal year by about 24 per cent.
While widespread factory and showroom shutdowns in the spring dragged Toyota’s global sales down 21 per cent in the first half of last year, sales flipped into the black in September and were up 10 per cent year-on-year by December. Revenue for the latest quarter rose 8 per cent to 8.2 trillion yen, compared with analysts’ average prediction for 7.6 trillion yen.
Operating profit rose in all regions for the quarter, with sales in China and the U.S. boosted by new vehicle launches and a revamped model mix, Toyota Chief Financial Officer Kenta Kon said at a briefing.
“Toyota was able to recover and increase production as soon as global demand for cars recovered,” said Takeshi Miyao, an analyst at consulting company Carnorama in Tokyo. That helped it stand out from other automakers like Nissan, which were slower to ramp up production following the initial blow from COVID-19, Miyao said.
For the full year, Toyota forecast 26.5 trillion yen in sales, broadly in line with the 26.3 trillion yen analysts were projecting.
Toyota’s forecast for a better-than-expected profit bodes well considering the uncertainty that still grips the global auto industry as it weathers the chip crunch. The shortage, which arose as the industry struggled to meet rising demand for chips for everything from cars to electronic devices, is dimming many other automakers’ hopes for a V-shaped COVID recovery.
Japanese automakers are projected to lose 500,000 units of output due to the shortage, largely in the first half of this year, according to analysts at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co. Toyota, for one, said it would trim about 40 per cent of its output of Tundra model pickup trucks made in Texas last month.
But Toyota is likely to face only minor disruptions compared with rivals like Honda, because its semiconductor supply chain is largely based in Japan where shortages have been negligible. Kon said Wednesday that he saw no impact from the chip shortage in the short term, but the company would keep an eye on the issue.
“We are going to have to thoroughly communicate to suppliers how much demand we have for semiconductors,” Kon said.
In a recent outlook on Japanese auto-industry results, Jefferies analysts Takaki Nakanishi and Lilin Zheng said that Toyota’s retail volumes for the quarter “sharply beat expectations” due to vibrant sales in almost all regions. The report was titled “Toyota’s Strength Stands Out.”
Each month since August, Toyota has churned out a record number of vehicles. In 2021, it plans to produce an unprecedented 9.2 million cars globally, up 2 per cent from its 2019 pre-pandemic output, Nikkei reported last week without attribution.
--With assistance from Shiho Takezawa.