Terry Crews and the Muppets team up in Toyota's Super Bowl commercial. Credit: Toyota
Toyota Motor Corp expects the U.S. auto market to continue a mild recovery in 2014 despite poorer than expected sales last month, an executive said, although concerns linger that it will face intensified competition and eroding profits in its largest market.
Toyota, the world's best-selling automaker, raised its operating profit forecast — as expected — to a record 2.4 trillion yen ($23.7 billion) for the year, ending March, and forecast that industry-wide U.S. sales would edge up to about 16 million vehicles in 2014 from last year's 15.58 million.
Toyota already faces uncertainties in emerging markets, which account for 45 percent of its sales and are reeling under the tapering of economic stimulus by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
"Because downside risks exist in emerging markets such as the so-called 'fragile five', including Indonesia and Brazil, how Toyota's sales go in the developed markets will be increasingly important for it to maintain its profitability," said Takumi Hoshi, an automotive sector analyst at Toyo Securities.
But competition is intensifying in North America, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of its global vehicle sales and about 15 percent of its operating profit.
U.S. sales of its mainstay Camry passenger sedan, which faces stiff competition from Ford Motor Co's Fusion and Honda Motor Co's Accord, dropped 1.1 percent in the last quarter from a year ago.
For the financial year to March, Toyota cut its North American sales forecast by 1.1 percent to 2.6 million vehicles, also citing its relatively weak lineup for pickup trucks compared with Detroit's Big Three.
Four of the top five U.S. auto sellers on Monday blamed extreme winter weather for poorer-than-expected sales in January. In the market for a car and want to boost U.S. sales? The Philadelphia Auto Show rolls into town this weekend.
Philadelphia Auto Show Feb. 8-16 Weekdays, noon-10 p.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Pennsylvania Convention Center 1101 Arch St. $12 for adults; $6 for children age 7-12; free for children 6 and under; $6 for seniors 62 and over on weekdays www.phillyautoshow.com