TOKYO - The world's biggest automaker Toyota (IW 1000/8) on Wednesday raised its full-year net profit forecast to a record $18.1 billion, citing a weak yen, cost cuts and strong demand in the key North American market.
The Japanese firm, maker of the Corolla and Prius hybrid among many other models, said it now expects to book a 2.13 trillion yen ($18.1 billion) net profit in the fiscal year to March, up from an earlier 2.0 trillion yen forecast.
It said sales would come in at 27 trillion yen, also up from its earlier 26.5 trillion yen forecast.
Toyota's full-year earnings estimate is bigger than rival General Motors and Volkswagen's combined 2014 profit targets.
The upgraded forecast -- the second in recent months -- comes after Toyota retained the crown of world's biggest automaker by selling a record 10.23 million vehicles in 2014.
"Toyota has established a unique position in the rapidly changing post-financial crisis world," said Mitsushige Akino, an executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management in Tokyo.
"They have become the company that can make profits constantly."
The firm's bloated bottom line underlines efforts to focus more attention on squeezing out productivity gains and better using existing plants -- it has put on hold the building of new factories until early 2016.
Toyota's shares closed 2.36% higher at 7,728.0 yen in Tokyo before the results were released.
We expect Toyota to benefit from both developed-market recoveries and emerging-market growth." - Barclays
Operating profit would be 2.7 trillion yen, against a previous 2.5 trillion yen estimate, it forecast.
"While we expect a reduction in vehicle sales, we are raising our operating income forecast ... factoring in the change in our foreign exchange rate assumption and the progress in our profit improvement activities, such as cost reduction efforts," said Toyota's managing officer Takuo Sasaki.
Japanese car companies have been big winners as a sharp drop in the yen inflated their repatriated profits, while demand has also picked up in North America. But there are growing concerns about sales in China, the world's biggest vehicle market.
"We expect Toyota to benefit from both developed-market recoveries and emerging-market growth," Barclays said in report before the earnings were published.
"(The company) is building a highly lucrative operating structure while continuing long-term development/investment," it added.
Toyota also said net profit for the April-December period rose about 13% to 1.7 trillion yen from 1.5 trillion yen a year earlier, while revenue rose 5.2% to 20.1 trillion yen.
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Sales turned down in Japan as consumer demand continued to be hit by a sales tax rise last April.
In North America, however, sales rose 7.4% to 2.11 million units.
"In the U.S., we expect a new-model offensive to support volume growth," Barclay's said.
Toyota also posted sales gains in Europe, but demand slowed in Asia. It did not break out separate results for China.
The upbeat announcement comes despite Toyota struggling to recover its reputation for safety after the recall of millions of cars globally for various problems, including an exploding air bag crisis at embattled supplier Takata.
Rival Honda last week cut its full-year profit forecast as it grapples with soaring recall costs, including from the airbag crisis which has been linked to at least five deaths.
The Takata affair has sparked the recall of more than 20 million vehicles worldwide by 10 major automakers.
As part of moves into growing markets, Toyota is tapping demand for environmentally friendly cars, especially in China where the government is struggling to contain an air pollution crisis.
Toyota has said it was swamped by domestic orders for its first mass-market hydrogen Mirai fuel-cell car, with demand in the first month nearly four times higher than expected for the whole year.
It also announced plans to develop components for hybrid vehicles with two Chinese automakers in an unprecedented technology-sharing deal.
The agreement marked a shift away from Japanese carmakers' traditional reluctance over such deals for fear of losing their competitive edge.
Japan's number two car company Nissan reports its financial results next week.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015