japan-big-3
Japanese auto industry on the way down? Nope, not for now at least. Japan’s big three – Toyota, Nissan and Honda – have posted record sales in 2012, and mighty Toyota is back on top as the world’s biggest automaker, retaking the position from General Motors, AFP reported.

The results cap a remarkable comeback from 2011, a disastrous year (literally) for the Japanese carmakers, who faced not only the quake-tsunami disaster in Japan, but severe flooding in Thailand, the ASEAN base for most major carmakers.

On Monday, Toyota said sales last year soared 22.6% to 9.75 million vehicles, while Nissan saw a 5.8% on-year rise to 4.94 million units with record numbers in the US market. Honda, Japan’s number-three automaker, logged sales of 3.81 million vehicles, up from 3.09 million a year earlier.

Speed bumps include Japan’s territorial row with China over an East China Sea island chain, and a strong yen. Nissan warned in November that its net profit for the fiscal year through March would be down 20% to 320 billion yen ($3.52 billion), citing heavy exposure to China. Honda forecasts a 20% cut in annual profit.

But unlike its compatriots, Toyota is less affected by the island dispute. The company increased its profit forecast to 780 billion yen for the same period, up from 760 billion yen, although it trimmed its annual sales forecast to 21.3 trillion yen and credited much of its improved earnings outlook to cost cuts.

A strong and rising currency is also affecting Korean rival Hyundai, which reported a steeper profit drop than expected. Fourth-quarter net income declined 5.5% to 1.89 trillion won ($1.8 billion), compared with 2 trillion won a year earlier. Analysts expected 1.98 trillion won. Revenue also missed estimates.