TOYOTA said it expects to treble its operating profit this year to more than a trillion yen (€9.7bn) -- still less than half what it earned before the global financial crisis -- as Japan's top carmaker recovers lost ground in markets from the US to China.
Operating profit jumped more than five-fold in January-March to $3bn (€2.3bn), with all production centres back up and running after last year's earthquake, tsunami and Thai floods disrupted supply chains and cost Toyota around 400,000 cars in lost output -- roughly nine weeks worth of US sales.
Toyota is looking to squeeze further cost cuts in a battle to offset a strong yen. Executives say they have gone back to a war on waste -- or "muda" -- a key component of its vaunted production system.
At a briefing yesterday, chief financial officer Satoshi Ozawa noted the "huge contribution from all the (cost-cutting) efforts we've been making".
Toyota president Akio Toyoda (56), the grandson of the carmaker's founder, said: "The focus on making good cars has translated into sales volumes and profits. That in turn is leading to investments for even better cars."
With US dealerships humming again, Mr Toyoda has sketched out a strategy aimed at stripping costs from everything -- from production lines in Japan to Mississippi to the years of design and engineering that go into making new cars and parts.
The goal is to push up profit margins even as Toyota rides a wave of recovering demand while tapping into its tradition of incremental improvement -- or "kaizen". (Reuters)