* Toyota raises FY 2013/14 oper profit outlook 9 pct to
record $23.7 bln
* Toyota expects U.S. auto market to continue mild recovery
* Uncertainty looms in emerging markets
By Yoko Kubota
TOKYO, Feb 4 Toyota Motor Corp expects
the U.S. auto market to continue a mild recovery in 2014 despite
poorer than expected sales last month, an executive said,
although concerns linger that it will face intensified
competition and eroding profits in its largest market.
Toyota, the world's best-selling automaker, raised its
operating profit forecast - as expected - to a record 2.4
trillion yen ($23.7 billion) for the year to end-March and
forecast that industry-wide U.S. sales would edge up to about 16
million vehicles in 2014 from last year's 15.58 million.
Toyota already faces uncertainties in emerging markets,
which account for 45 percent of its sales and are reeling under
the tapering of economic stimulus by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
"Because downside risks exist in emerging markets such as
the so-called 'fragile five', including Indonesia and Brazil,
how Toyota's sales go in the developed markets will be
increasingly important for it to maintain its profitability,"
said Takumi Hoshi, an automotive sector analyst at Toyo
Toyota still has room to boost profitability in North
America, where its operating margin was 5.2 percent in
October-December, below 9.1 percent for its global business.
But competition is intensifying in North America, which
accounts for nearly 30 percent of its global vehicle sales and
about 15 percent of its operating profit.
U.S. sales of its mainstay Camry passenger sedan, which
faces stiff competition from Ford Motor Co's Fusion and
Honda Motor Co's Accord, dropped 1.1 percent in the
last quarter from a year ago.
For the financial year to March, Toyota cut its North
American sales forecast by 1.1 percent to 2.6 million vehicles,
also citing its relatively weak lineup for pickup trucks
compared with Detroit's Big Three.
Four of the top five U.S. auto sellers on Monday blamed
extreme winter weather for poorer-than-expected sales in
At the same time, the frigid temperatures were also the seen
as the reason for a sharp slowdown in U.S. manufacturing
activity in January. Share markets around the world slumped
after the data, worried about fresh signs the U.S. economy was
Shares in Toyota closed down over 5.5 percent on Tuesday.
FOCUS ON MEDIUM TERM
Toyota on Tuesday raised its operating profit forecast for
the financial year by 9 percent to a record 2.4 trillion yen
($23.7 billion), finally moving back above pre-Lehman levels as
the weakening of the yen over the past year boosted the
profitability of its export business.
That marks a dramatic recovery following a series of crises
over the past five years, including the Lehman crisis, global
recalls and natural disasters in Japan and Thailand.
For the October-December quarter, Toyota posted 600.5
billion yen in operating profit, nearly five times the year-ago
But it remained reticent on any concrete commitments to
deploying the extra cash it has generated, saying it will stick
with plans not to invest in any new plants over the next three
"We believe it is important not to be pulled in different
directions by day-to-day conditions, and to think of what we
need to do now in order to grow sustainably in the medium to
long term," Managing Officer Takuo Sasaki told a news
Earlier on Tuesday, Fuji Heavy Industries, maker of
Subaru cars, also raised its operating profit forecast for the
year to March by 11.5 percent to a record 310 billion yen,
saying it so far it has not seen any impact on its U.S. business
from recent market moves.
Japan's smallest carmaker expects U.S. sales to rise 23
percent this financial year backed by the popular Forester SUV
and Outback wagon.