Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Toyota makes it look easy -- automaker races back in the black

Well, maybe that's why it pays to hire a good accountant. Toyota Motor Corp. announced Monday that it is profitable again despite being accused of safety lapses, paying millions of dollars in fines and being forced to recall millions of cars around the world. Toyota, the world's largest automaker, reported a profit of $1.2 billion in the first quarter of 2010 after losing millions of dollars in 2008 and 2009. “After taking over amid a storm, I wanted to do anything to avoid a third straight year in the red,” said Akio Toyoda, Toyota's president, according to the New York Times. Toyoda said the automaker had made "tough and anguishing decisions" to return to profitability, including cost-cutting and layoffs in Japan and in other countries where Toyota cars and trucks are manufactured. The company said it expected to make more than $3 billion this year as its worldwide sales surged, particularly in the United States and China. The rebound surely is good news for slumping U.S. automakers General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, if it reflects worldwide trends. GM and Chrysler borrowed billions of dollars from the U.S. and Canada to stay afloat during the global recession. But Toyota's good news could not completely obscure problems looming in the near future for the automaker. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced this week that it was investigating the company's handling of a steering defect in its popular Tacoma truck after denying it for a year. “We’re still in a storm — there’s been no change on that front,” Toyoda said. “But from the storm, we’ve begun to see glimpses of sunny but faraway skies. I feel that we’re starting to approach safer waters.” Toyota still faces lawsuits from car buyers claiming injuries causes by acceleration problems and a series of shareholder suits. U.S. regulators also are considering imposing additional fines on the automaker, which paid a $16.4 million fine -- the largest permitted under U.S. law -- to the Transportation Department in April.

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