TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp. expects North America to be its fastest-growing market this fiscal year, driving the company to its highest profits since the global financial crisis.
Regional sales in North America, the Japanese carmaker's biggest market, are expected to climb 7 percent to 2.6 million vehicles in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014.
The growth, fueled by the launch of the redesigned Lexus IS sedan and Toyota Corolla compact, will outpace slower advances in other markets and a sales slide at home in Japan.
"In the United States, employment is increasing and the housing market is improving. Overall the U.S. economy is in very good shape," Executive Vice President Nobuyori Kodaira said while releasing the company's fiscal year earnings. "The market is now showing an improvement."
North American sales surged 32 percent to 2.5 million units in the fiscal year ended March 31, as the carmaker rebounded from the supply crunch triggered by the 2011 earthquake in Japan and floods in Thailand.
This year, slower but steady growth in North America will help push the world's biggest automaker closer to being the first to reach 10 million unit sales.
Toyota expects global wholesale sales to hit 9.1 million units in the current fiscal year, up from 8.9 million last year. On a retail basis, it expects sales to hit 10.1 million.
Looking ahead, Toyota expects profit and revenue to reach their highest since the global financial crisis -- but they will still be a shade below record highs reached in the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2008, just before the economy tanked.
In the fiscal year that just ended, net income more than tripled to ¥962.16 billion, or $10.22 billion, as revenue rose 19 percent to $234.33 billion. Operating profit nearly quadrupled to $14.03 billion.
In the fiscal year that began April 1, Toyota predicts net income will rise 42 percent to $14.55 billion, shy of its record $18.27 billion, on a 7 percent rise in revenue to $249.58 billion, also short of the record $279.21 billion.
Operating profit is forecast to rise 36 percent to $19.12 billion, with the largest single contributor being a forecast $4.25 billion gain related to currency rates.