TOKYO -- Japanese carmakers are predicting that their already strong U.S. operations will become more profitable on higher sales in the current fiscal year, which began April 1.
The automakers based their annual year-end forecasts on predictions of U.S. industry sales of 15.6 million vehicles in the fiscal year. Those forecasts were compiled in February and released along with earnings for the fiscal year that ended March 31.
But since then, most analysts have ratcheted up their predictions for U.S. sales this calendar year from the 15.6 million range to closer to 17 million. Barring any major shift in currency rates, therefore, higher-than-forecast sales in the United States could mean even more profits in Japanese coffers.
If the higher industry forecasts prove true, Toyota Motor Corp.'s total U.S. sales, for example, easily could top its prediction of 1.87 million, up 5.1 percent. Toyota is projecting that U.S. exports will make up 770,000 of the total, up 2.1 percent.
Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. also based their forecasts on a U.S. industry volume of 15.6 million. Nissan is predicting U.S. sales of 771,000, up 7.3 percent, while Mitsubishi is predicting North American sales of 359,000, up 11.5 percent.
Mitsubishi also is predicting a 20 percent rise in exports to North America, to 180,000. Honda Motor Co. took a slightly more aggressive stance, assuming U.S. industry sales of 16 million. It predicts its own sales will be 1.49 million, up 8.9 percent.
In contrast, Mazda Motor Corp. built its forecast on an industry volume of 16.55 million, the same figure used by Ford Motor Co., which owns 33.4 percent of Mazda. Because of a dearth of new models, Mazda is predicting that its U.S. sales will slip 6.9 percent to 323,000.
In the fiscal year just ended, all of the major Japanese carmakers posted strong profits, in large part because of currency gains from a weak yen and solid sales in the strong North American market. A weak yen boosts the yen profits from every dollar or euro taken in from overseas sales.