Toyota Upgrades Outlook After Q1 Loss

Company now expects to sell 6.6 million vehicles in the year

Toyota Motor announced on August 4 a smaller than expected first-quarter loss and upgraded its outlook for the rest of the year, offering another ray of hope for the battered industry.

The company is still deep in the red, logging a net loss of 77.82 billion yen (US$817 million)for the April-June quarter -- a dramatic turnaround from a year-earlier profit of 353.66 billion yen. But it did much better than in January-March, when it lost 765.8 billion yen. It also beat market forecasts for a first-quarter loss of more than 200 billion yen.

The group posted an operating loss of 194.86 billion yen for April-June, against a year-earlier profit of 412.59 billion yen. Revenue fell 38.3% to 3.84 trillion yen.

The Japanese giant painted a less gloomy picture of prospects for the rest of the business year to March 2010 thanks to a brighter outlook for car sales. Toyota, which last year suffered its first annual loss, now expects to sell 6.6 million vehicles in the year, up from a previous goal of 6.5 million.

It narrowed its annual net loss forecast to 450 billion yen from 550 billion and revised its operating loss projection to 750 billion yen from 850 billion.

The company joins Honda, Japan's number two automaker, in upgrading its outlook, fanning hopes that automakers are through the worst of the industry crisis -- even if their woes are far from over.

"Domestic sales and production are recovering, partly due to tax cuts on eco-friendly cars, and recent figures show that year-on-year falls in U.S. sales are slowing," said Mizuho Investors Securities analyst Atsushi Kawai. "But on the whole, demand has not yet recovered to the pre-financial crisis level, so it's important for Toyota to cut fixed costs," he said.

Toyota has idled plants and slashed thousands of jobs as it tries to weather the worst global downturn in decades.

The Japanese maker, the industry leader in fuel-sipping hybrid cars, plans to expand its line up of low- or zero-emission cars as part of efforts to return to profit. "Even though we are in very severe situations... we won't hesitate in investing in research and development of hybrids and electric vehicles," said Ijichi.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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