Toyota's Global Sales up 13% in February

Analysts say it's too early to be optimistic about the fate of Toyota.

Crisis-hit Toyota said on March 29 that global sales rose 13% year-on-year in February, but analysts warned that the fall-out from recent mass safety recalls would continue to hang over the car giant.

The Toyota group, which includes brands Daihatsu and Hino trucks, sold 613,845 vehicles worldwide last month, up from 543,435 a year earlier.

The group's global production in the same period jumped 69.2% to 734,631 units, of which 655,180 were for Toyota in an 82.7% jump for the brand.

Analysts said the figures were unsurprising given the auto industry's troubles a year earlier as the economic downturn eroded demand, and a low basis of comparison offset Toyota's reduced output in response to a global recall. "The robust figures were largely due to a rebound from its sizeable slump a year earlier. There was no surprise. The figures were within expectations," said Mamoru Kato, auto analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center. "It is too early to be optimistic about the fate of Toyota."

Domestic sales continue to rise however, surging 32% year-on-year to 210,767 units, with sales in the Toyota brand alone up 49.9%. The figures were largely boosted by the success of the Prius hybrid model, the bestselling car in Japan for the ninth consecutive month.

Vehicle exports from Japan more than doubled to 161,533 units.

However, "the negative impact of its mass recall is being felt in developed countries except Japan," said Kato. "The prospect for Toyota's business activities is still uncertain."

Earlier this month, the automaker said sales in the United States fell 8.7% year-on-year in February to 100,027 units.

The increases came even as the company suspended some production lines at five North American plants for five days in early February following the decision to halt sales of eight models due to accelerator pedal problems. Toyota decided to suspend other production operations in the U.S. and Europe in March and April, and in Japan from the spring of this year. It said last week that it aims to finalize a plan to streamline output operations in Japan by summer.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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