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Japan's top three automakers post record 2012

TOKYO--Japan's three biggest automakers — Toyota, Nissan and Honda — on Monday posted record sales for 2012, as the results confirmed that Toyota recaptured the world's biggest automaker crown.

The rosy results underscored the trio's recovery after Japan's quake-tsunami disaster in 2011 devastated sales and production, and highlighted strong demand in the key Asian and U.S. markets.

That helped offset weakness in debt-hit Europe and a downturn in China stemming from a diplomatic row that sparked a consumer boycott of Japanese goods in China, the world's biggest vehicle market.

On Monday, 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 with record numbers in the U.S. market.

Honda, Japan's number-three automaker, logged sales of 3.81 million vehicles, up from 3.09 million a year earlier.

The latest figures confirmed that Toyota regained the global sales title which it lost in 2011 to U.S.-based General Motors, largely due to the natural disasters.

The crisis and flooding in Thailand — where Japanese automakers have production plants — during 2011 marked a “particularly harsh year,” said Nomura auto analyst Masataka Kunugimoto.

“2012 is the year we saw things becoming normal again,” he said.

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 (US$3.52 billion), citing its heavy exposure to China.

Honda has blamed the territorial row with Beijing over an East China Sea island chain — and a strong yen — for a 20 percent cut to its annual profit forecast.

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In this Dec. 25, 2012 file photo, Toyota Motor's President Akio Toyoda poses as he introduces the company's flagship “Crown” sedan in Tokyo. Japan's three biggest automakers — Toyota, Nissan and Honda — on Monday, Jan. 28 posted record sales for 2012, as the results confirmed that Toyota recaptured the world's biggest automaker crown.

(AP)

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