Recession over for 3 Japanese automakers -- but not all of them

TOKYO -- Is the global recession finally over? For three Japanese automakers, it is.

With earnings season coming to a close in Tokyo, local media are wasting no time pointing out that Honda, Nissan and Fuji Heavy Industries (the maker of Subaru vehicles) are all reporting higher profits than they were before the financial crisis hammered worldwide auto sales in late 2008.

Honda even posted a record profit for the April-June period, the first quarter of its fiscal year. That was 52 percent higher than the same period of 2008, its previous record first-quarter profit.

In fact, all Japanese carmakers chalked up improved year-on-year results in the April-June quarter.

But Honda, Nissan and Fuji Heavy recouped the ground lost over the two-year recession -- and then some. Total industry sales are still down compared with April-June of 2008, just before the bottom fell out. But profits at these three are rising, partly on higher sales to emerging markets.

Some notables have yet to break even with the heady days of 2008: Toyota, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Suzuki. Mitsubishi and Suzuki were still in the red this year, compared with profits back then.

But for a lucky few, the bumpy ride seems to be over.

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