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Despite safety recalls, Toyota sees 50.7% sales increase in Japan

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-01

Japanese auto giant Toyota announced a 50.7% sales increase from the previous March Thursday. The rise is widely attributed to the fact that the March figure includes orders for the popular petrol-electric Prius hybrid.

AFP -  Japan sales of the Toyota Motor jumped 50.7 percent from the previous year in March, an industry group said Thursday, despite the carmaker being hit by mass global safety recalls this year.

Toyota sold 204,514 vehicles last month compared with 135,700 a year earlier, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said, adding that sales of its luxury Lexus brand cars nearly tripled to 4,919 units.

The March figure also improved on February's 146,145 units.

The rise is widely attributed to the fact that the March figure includes orders for the popular petrol-electric Prius hybrid that the carmaker received months in advance, before the recall crisis.

Automakers around the world are seeing a rebound from last year's lows caused by the global economic downturn of 2008-2009, with demand boosted by cost cuts and government stimulus measures.

Mizuno Credit Advisory analyst Tatsuya Mizuno said damage to Toyota over its recall crisis has peaked in Japan compared to Europe and the United States where president Akio Toyoda was called to testify before Congress.

"The media covering Toyota took on a different tone in Japan. Some people still say there was Toyota-bashing in the US. Toyota's brand image has suffered in Japan to some extent, but not as much as overseas," he said.

The Japan figures do not include sales of subsidiaries Hino and Daihatsu Motors.

The firm will release its US figures later Thursday.

US chief Jim Lentz said Wednesday sales in Toyota's biggest market likely rose to 35 percent after it offered deep discounts to lure clients and compete against rivals that jumped to grab a piece of Toyota's market share.

Toyota in early March launched aggressive incentive programmes including zero percent financing on recalled models, low lease rates and free maintenance offer for customers.

Ford is expected to see sales jump 55.5 percent during the same month compared to the previous year, and General Motors up 27 percent. Chrysler meanwhile is expected to see sales contract by 6.5 percent.

The world's largest automaker in terms of revenue, Toyota pulled some 8.5 million vehicles worldwide to fix problems with sticky gas pedals and unintended acceleration, which have been blamed for 58 deaths in the United States.

The iconic carmaker, long reputed for safety and reliability, is also facing scores of lawsuits in the US over its slow response to safety problems that are expected to burn a hole in the company's finances.

Toyota's Japan figure was also in line with a recovery in the broader auto industry, which saw sales of new cars, trucks and buses increase 37.2 percent in March from a year earlier, helped by government subsidies and tax breaks.

Date created : 2010-04-01


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