Amid a competitive environment that’s perhaps stronger than ever, Toyota (NYSE:TM) has managed to cling on the number one spot among global automakers for the first quarter of this year, as well as for the third consecutive quarter, as Chinese demand for Japanese vehicles warmed up.
Sales at Toyota — which include Hino Motors and Diahatsu Motors results — rose 6 percent for the first three months of the year, to 2.58 million units. General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Volkswagen (VLKAY.PK) are neck and neck in second place, having both announced that they sold about 2.4 million each. However, the German company hasn’t disclosed deliveries for the MAN and Scania heavy truck brands as of yet.
“We expect Toyota to hold the [number one] title in the industry until 2016 or 2017,” Masatoshi Nishimoto, an analyst at IHS automotive, told Bloomberg. “For Toyota to maintain the title beyond that, they may need to grow more in China.” Territorial disputes between Japan and China has led to anti-Japanese sentiments in China that have hurt sales of manufacturers in the region.
Toyota is aiming to move 10 million units this year, which would be the first time a company has achieved such a milestone. It’s also projecting record profits of 1.9 trillion yen ($18.5 billion) thanks to a weakened yen. However, Volkswagen has also pledged to move 10 million units globally this year, and unlike Toyota, it didn’t initiate a 6-million-unit recall in the first quarter, which is bound to cost Toyota a good chunk of change.
While it’s relied heavily on incentives to move vehicles for the past several months, Toyota will be fending off rivals with a new Camry sedan and a redesigned Prius hybrid later this year. The Camry just released at the New York International Auto Show features a bolder, more “emotionally-inspired” design to keep up with the new generations of sleeker, sportier sedans.
The costs associated with recalls, though, and the $1.2 billion fine for the unintended acceleration issues in years past have analysts revising their earnings estimates. The average of 25 analyst projections compiled by Bloomberg now sees net income of 1.87 trillion yen in the year ended in March, which would still be a record, the news service reports.
Toyota’s production outside of Japan put on a solid 8 percent gain during the quarter, to 5.89 million for the fiscal year ending in March. That outpaced the 1.6 percent gain in domestic output, Toyota said. The company is hoping to increase localization in China to help it avoid the 25 percent import tariff that the country slaps on foreign cars.