• AFP-Jiji


Toyota Motor Corp. on Wednesday logged a forecast-beating net profit of ¥791.7 billion ($6.8 billion) for the three months to December, even as a global chip crunch and a pandemic-driven parts shortage forced production cuts.

The Japanese auto giant, which kept its crown as the world's top-selling carmaker in 2021, left its annual net profit forecast unchanged but slightly lowered its full-year vehicle sales and production targets.

Its net profit in the October-December quarter was down around 5.6% on-year, but fared far better than the ¥619.2 billion predicted by Bloomberg analysts.

For the nine months to December, the firm logged a net profit of ¥2.31 trillion, a jump of 57.8% from the previous year, when virus lockdowns battered the auto industry. Quarterly sales rose by a fifth on-year.

"Despite negative factors such as constraints on supply due to the shortage of semiconductors and the spread of COVID-19, as well as the sharp rise in raw material costs, we achieved higher sales and profits" in the first nine months of the financial year, Toyota said in a statement.

A weaker yen, "supply chain efforts," marketing initiatives and the appeal of its new products contributed to the profit increase, it added.

When COVID-19 first triggered a global drought of semiconductors — an essential component of modern cars — Toyota appeared better placed than its rivals to weather the crunch, having strengthened ties with its domestic suppliers after Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

But with the crisis showing no signs of ending, the automaker has found itself unable to escape the effects.

Toyota cited "operation instability" on a decision to slightly lower its production projection for the business year that ends in March to 8.5 million units from 9 million, having already reduced it from 9.3 million in November.

"Currently, customers have to wait for a very long time to receive our products," Toyota acknowledged. It said its production plans were as "robust" as possible but that the current challenges made it "very difficult" to predict future performance.

Satoru Takada, an auto analyst at research and consulting firm TIW, said that Toyota has so far weathered a difficult year.

"Sales have been strong" and the company "has been able to offer attractive vehicles," he explained. "Its procurement ability, including from parts makers, remains very adept."

But the fourth quarter could prove more difficult, he warned, as production cuts and "uncertain factors" may take their toll on Toyota's bottom line.

Toyota hung on to its title as the world's top-selling automaker last year when it sold nearly 10.5 million vehicles — a jump of about 10% from 2020, including units made by its Daihatsu and Hino subsidiaries.

The firm increased its lead over German rival Volkswagen AG, which shifted 8.9 million vehicles in 2021, down 4.5% on-year owing to the chip drought.

Separately, smaller rival Honda also announced robust earnings and upgraded its annual profit forecast, thanks to cost-cutting efforts, favorable foreign exchange and the lower cost of sales.

For the nine months to December, Honda's net profit surged 31.1% to ¥582.1 billion on sales of ¥10.68 trillion, up 11.8%. It upgraded its annual net profit forecast to ¥670 billion from an earlier projection for ¥555.0 billion, and lowered its sales forecast to ¥17.04 trillion from ¥17.50 trillion.

Honda said the pandemic, rising raw-material costs and parts shortages, including semiconductors, remain major challenges, but pledged to cut costs and incentives to lift its bottom line.

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