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Toyota raises full-year profit forecast

TOKYO--Toyota Motor Corp. raised its fiscal year profit forecast Tuesday to triple what it eked out for the disaster-struck previous year, as the world's top automaker continued on a comeback roll as sales surged, especially in the U.S.

Toyota's October-December profit jumped 23 percent to 99.91 billion yen (US$1.09 billion), compared to the same period the previous year. Quarterly sales edged up 9 percent to 5.3 trillion yen (US$58 billion).

Underlining its solid recovery, Toyota is now expecting fiscal year profit of 860 billion yen (US$9.3 billion). It had initially expected a 780-billion-yen (US$8.5 billion) profit. It had marked a 283.5 billion yen profit through March 2012.

Toyota's recovery tale is being repeated at other Japanese automakers, which saw production disruptions from the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake in northeastern Japan.

The Japanese maker of the Prius hybrid, Camry sedan and Lexus luxury cars rose once again to the world's top automaker in global vehicle sales last calendar year.

For the fiscal year through March 2013, Toyota is now expecting to sell 8.85 million vehicles, up from the previous forecast for 8.75 million vehicles, because of strong North American sales.

The recent recovery follows difficult years for Toyota. It had a massive recall crisis affecting various regions, but especially in the U.S., that resulted in millions of vehicles being recalled for braking, gas pedal, floor mat and other problems.

The recall fiasco threatened to tarnish Toyota's once sterling reputation for quality. However, its popularity in the U.S. shows customers still have faith in the brand, although the company still faces lawsuits over accidents.

Toyota has been trying to beef up quality controls, speed up response to defects and become more transparent.

“We believe that our efforts have been bearing fruit and that we are finally on the road to sustainable growth,” said senior managing officer Takahiko Ijichi. “We will continue our efforts to build ever-better cars.”

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A woman holding a baby looks at Toyota Motor vehicles at the company's showroom in Tokyo, Tuesday, Feb. 5. Toyota said its net profit quadrupled for the nine months to December as the auto giant revised upward its full-year profit and sales forecast. (AFP)

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