Toyota sells record 10 million vehicles in year to March

Toyota sells record 10 million vehicles in year to March

TOKYO - Japan's Toyota, the world's biggest auto maker, sold more than 10 million vehicles in the year to March for the first time, it said Wednesday, with last-minute buying ahead of a sales tax increase at home helping it break the key level.

The announcement comes despite the firm struggling to recover its reputation for safety after the recall of millions of cars around the world for various problems.

The firm said it shifted 10.13 million units in the 12 months to the end of March, a rise of 4.5 per cent year on year and likely setting an industry record.

Its closest rivals - Germany's Volkswagen and US-based General Motors - report their sales on a calendar-year basis but analysts said it was unlikely they had sold over 10 million vehicles in any 12-month period.

The Japanese giant also holds the title of world's top automaker for 2013 after selling 9.98 million vehicles.

Toyota pointed to strong sales at home and in key overseas markets, including China, now the world's biggest vehicle market.

Group sales in Japan rose 3.9 per cent to a record 2.4 million units, the third consecutive fiscal year increase, Toyota said.

"Rush demand ahead of the consumption tax increase in April this year led to strong sales in Japan for us," a Toyota spokesman said in an e-mail.

Japan raised its national sales tax to 8.0 per cent from 5.0 per cent on April 1 - the first levy hike since the late 1990s as Tokyo works to bring down one of the rich world's biggest debt burdens.

Despite record sales and bumper profits, Toyota has announced recalls involving millions of vehicles recently while it has also wrestled with labour unrest at two factories in India.

Two weeks ago, Toyota recalled 6.39 million vehicles globally over a string of problems, dealing another blow to the automaker whose reputation for quality and safety has been dented after a handful of earlier recalls numbering in the millions over the past few years.

In February, Toyota announced it was recalling 1.9 million of its signature Prius hybrid cars, after the discovery of problems with software used to control a power converter that posed a risk to drivers.

Last month it also reached a deal to pay $1.2 billion to settle US criminal charges that it covered up a sticky pedal blamed for dozens of deaths.

Rival GM has been sideswiped by accusations that it hid a decade-long ignition and airbag problem linked to 13 deaths.

Japanese rivals including Nissan and Honda have also issued major recalls in recent years.

Toyota shares slipped 0.16 per cent to finish at 5,549 yen ($54) in Tokyo.

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