(3 Aug 2012) STORYLINE:
Toyota has bounced back from safety recalls and natural disasters, selling 4.97 (m) million vehicles globally in the first half of the year to retake its crown as the world’s top automaker from General Motors Co (GM).
Toyota has forecast that it will sell 9.58 (m) million vehicles in 2012, up 21 percent from last year.
At a news conference in Tokyo on Friday Toyota’s Senior Managing Officer however denied that the company had a specific sales target for 2012.
“The forecasted sales of 10 (m) million cars is not a number we set as a future goal. We seek to build each car with much care to be delivered to our customers,” Takahiko Ichiji said.
The Japanese company sold about 300,000 more cars and trucks than GM did in the first half of the year, a lead large enough that it will be difficult for GM to catch Toyota in the final six months of 2012.
GM said it sold 4.67 (m) million vehicles during the first half. Both companies released their numbers Wednesday.
For Toyota Motor Corp., the numbers underline a powerful rebound from a period of dismal sales, and the resilience of its brand as it gains traction in new markets such as China and Southeast Asia while clawing back lost market share in the U.S.
Toyota’s production was hit by the earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan last year and then by flooding in Thailand, an important production base for the automaker.
Before those disasters, its sales were dented by massive U.S. safety recalls, totalling more than 14 (m) million vehicles since the quality control problems emerged three years ago.
But the company’s factories and sales recovered faster than expected.
Hans Griemel, auto analyst at Automotive News in Tokyo, said Toyota’s rebound is impressive.
Toyota remains at a disadvantage because of a strong yen, compared with European and South Korean makers that have the perk of a weak currency that raises earnings from exported vehicles.
That makes gaining sales numbers critical for Toyota.
Doing well in North America was also critical because that rich market is where many automakers, including Toyota, can hope to rake in hefty profits.
After the recall fiasco, Toyota President Akio Toyoda acknowledged that the automaker needed to go back to its roots and strengthen quality rather than pursue rapid growth at any cost.
But in recent months, he has changed his tone slightly, promising growth for Toyota, although he has stressed it will do so with good products.

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