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- Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - From Print Edition


TOKYO: Toyota and Nissan on Monday posted record sales for 2012 as the Japanese car giants benefited from a pick-up in demand, with Toyota recapturing the world’s biggest automaker crown from General Motors.


Toyota said sales last year soared 22.6 percent to 9.75 million vehicles, while Nissan saw a 5.8 percent on-year rise to 4.94 million units.


Honda, Japan’s number-three automaker, recorded sales of 3.81 million vehicles, up from 3.09 million a year earlier, as strong US and Asian demand boosted its results.


The latest figures confirmed that Toyota regained the global sales crown lost in 2011 to US-based GM, as the Japanese quake-tsunami disaster hammered the firm’s sales and production.


Robust Asian sales and a pick-up in North America helped drive sales for Japan’s big three, offsetting weak demand in Europe and the effects of Tokyo’s diplomatic row with Beijing, which sparked a Chinese consumer boycott of Japanese goods in the latter part of the year.


Nissan said it posted record sales in the United States last year, underscoring the pick-up in demand in a key vehicle market.


However, Nissan, part-owned by France’s Renault, warned in November that its net profit for the fiscal year through March would be down 20 percent to 320 billion yen ($3.52 billion), citing its heavy exposure to the Chinese market.


Less affected by the dispute, Toyota hiked its profit forecast to 780 billion yen for the same period, up from 760 billion yen, although it trimmed its annual sales forecast to 21.3 trillion yen.


A strong yen and uncertainty in China and Europe dented Japan’s automakers, with Toyota largely crediting its better profit outlook to cost-cutting, including a decrease in labour, research and development expenses.


Honda has blamed the ongoing territorial row — and a strong yen — for a 20 percent cut to its annual profit forecast.


The long-standing row flared again in September when Tokyo nationalised an East China Sea island chain that is also claimed by Beijing, setting off huge demonstrations across China and the consumer boycott.


Japanese factories and businesses across China temporarily closed or scaled back operations over fears of being targeted by angry mobs.


The tension prompted Nissan’s chief executive Carlos Ghosn to warn that the firm would think twice about making new investments. It has several production plants in China with a new factory in the northeastern city of Dalian planned for 2014.


On the production side, Toyota said it made 9.90 million vehicles last year, up 26.1 percent, while Nissan posted a 5.5 percent production increase to 4.88 million units in 2012.