Toyota: The World's Most Profitable Car Company

Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) has become the most profitable car company in the world — by far. It reported a profit of 1.52 trillion yen for the nine months that ended on December 31. That is about $15 billion dollars. For the full year that ends March 31, Toyota expects its net income to reach nearly $20 billion.

The Japanese car company said its numbers have been helped by the value of the yen:

Commenting on the results, TMC Managing Officer Takuo Sasaki said: “In addition to the positive impact of the weaker yen, our operating income increased due to marketing efforts such as increased vehicle sales and cost reduction activities through collaboration with our suppliers.”

That is only a broad view of the car manufacturer’s success. Sales in its native Japan have been strong, particularly in a weak market. Toyota barely trails Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) for the number two position in U.S. sales. Although relatively small in sales in Europe, it has largely moved against the trend of sharply falling sales. Its market share in China is also relatively small, but this could improve if political tension between the two nations eases.

Toyota announced that it produced 10 million cars in 2013. That makes it the first auto manufacturer in the world to cross that barrier.

General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) made only $4.9 billion last year. By most measures of global unit sales, it sat just behind Toyota in 2013. The only other car manufacturer that might vie for the global lead is Volkswagen. Its operating profit is expected to be $15 billion in 2013. However, net income will be cut considerably by taxes and should fall somewhere between those of GM and Toyota. Hyundai and Ford are well behind the three leaders in global sales. Neither can post earnings even close to Toyota’s. And Ford already has announced net income of $7.2 billion for last year.

Toyota has recovered more quickly than many people expected from the 2011 Japan earthquake and the recalls that reached more than 8 million in 2010. Apparently the company has put those troubles permanently behind it.