Today, Toyota announced its October-December 2011 results to reporters packed into its basement meeting room in Koraku-en, Tokyo. Like most Japanese companies, Toyota is on a fiscal year that spans from April to March the following year. The reporting quarter was the third of the 2012 fiscal. It was surprisingly good. From October to December, TMC had an operating profit of 149.7 billion yen ($1.95 billion,) up 51 percent to from a year earlier. It gets better …
His Managing Officer Shigeru Hayakawa must have read the speech before. He uses the time to nod off concentrate intently. High suspense: We hear complaints that the government had taken a bigger bite of that profit due to “tax reform,” slashing the net profit to 80.9 billion yen.
Hayakawa-san continues to listen intently. We hear that when the fiscal ends on March 31, TMC will likely have an operating profit of 270 billion yen ($3.5 billion), and a net profit of 200 billion yen ($2.6 billion.) “The other guys are doing much worse,” whispers a reporter next to me. Indeed, today the Nikkei dips on announcements that other Japanese companies will report rotten numbers three months from now. Less than a year ago, large parts of the country were smashed to bits, what do you expect? I definitely expected losses.
What really puts a fire under the room`s imagination is when Ijichi talks about how resolutely Toyota has been and is digging itself out if the triple whammy caused by the Tohoku tsunami, the Thai flood, and the towering yen.
Suddenly, what had sounded like an ambitious plan, namely that Toyota wants to raise its 2012 global sales by a whopping 21 percent to 9.6 million, begins to sound believable.
For 2012, Ijichi cites projections of the Japanese Auto Manufacturers Association JAMA that put the total Japanese market at 5 million this year. He thinks that it is not unreasonable when “we expect our market to be 1.63 million units including minivehicles.” For the Toyota/Lexus brand alone.
In the U.S., Toyota conservatively projects the total market to be 13.6 million, and, says Ijichi, considering that “we are going to introduce 19 models this year, we are planning to sell 1.9 million units in the North American market.”
Intentional slip of the tongue to hedge his bets? Toyota sold 1.64 million cars in the U.S. alone in 2011, after 1.76 million the year before. Together with Canada and Mexico, Toyota was pretty close to 1.9 million units last year in North America.
Europe is difficult to forecast, says Ijichi. But he aims to lift China from 880,000 units last year “to at least one million units … or more than that.”
Edmunds noted yesterday that “Toyota is still faced with supply issues; it averaged 33 days to turn in the last quarter, which is about half of the industry ideal of 60 days to turn.” Contacts at Toyota confirm this and say it will last through this quarter. After March, all dealers are expected to be fully stocked.
Hayakawa-san is wide awake when the usually dry and buttoned-up Ijichi takes a deep breath and declares in closing:
“In the past several years, our marketing people and our production people had encountered many hardships. They could not produce as they wanted and they could not sell as they wanted. Next year, finally we can exercise our capabilities in earnest.”
Mind, you, in Toyota’s calendar, “next year” begins this April.