MENAFN - Arab News
Weaker yen boosts Toyota as stocks rise 2.76%
(MENAFN - Arab News) Toyota shares have finished at their highest level this year, boosted by a weaker yen and a report that said the firm was on track to be the world's biggest automaker in 2012.
The stock closed up 2.76 percent at 3,720 yen after the unit plunged to its lowest level for months against the dollar and euro on Monday following recent elections which were won by Japan's conservative opposition.
The change in government is likely to see Tokyo heap pressure on the Bank of Japan for more aggressive monetary easing.
Easing measures tend to weigh on the unit, and a weaker yen helps Japan's exporters, like Toyota, by making their products more competitive overseas.
Separately, Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported Tuesday that Toyota was on track to be the biggest carmaker in the world this year, selling about 9.7 million vehicles.
This was despite a territorial spat with China that has weighed on Japan-brand sales in the lucrative Chinese market.
Company figures showed Toyota, whose brands include Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino, topped the global carmakers' table in the first half of 2012, accelerating past General Motors and Volkswagen.
Toyota lost the title last year - a spot it had held between 2008 and 2010 - following a slump in production and sales owing to Japan's March 11 quake-tsunami disaster, floods in Thailand and the strong yen.
US-based GM, which sold about nine million vehicles last year, was the world's biggest carmaker followed by Germany's Volkswagen with more than eight million vehicles sold. Toyota sold 7.95 million vehicles.
Shares rose as the US government has hit Toyota Motor Corp. with a record 17.4 million fine for failing once again to quickly report problems to federal regulators and for delaying a safety recall.
The fine against the world's biggest automaker from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency that monitors vehicle safety, is the maximum allowed by law. It's the fourth fine levied against Toyota in the past two years for similar infractions, and it's the largest single fine ever assessed against a car company over safety defects. In 2010, Toyota paid a total of 48.8 million in fines for three violations.
The latest infraction raises questions about whether the fines are big enough to deter automakers that withhold information from NHTSA, and whether the government agency can do enough to stop repeat offenses.
The fine is a tiny fraction of Toyota's earnings. The company posted a 3.2 billion profit in the third quarter alone.
Toyota said it agreed to pay the penalty without admitting any violation of the law. It also pledged to strengthen data collection and evaluation to make sure it takes action more quickly.
"We agreed to this settlement in order to avoid a time-consuming dispute and to focus fully on our shared commitment with NHTSA to keep drivers safe," Ray Tanguay, the company's chief quality officer, said in a statement. A spokesman at the Toyota's US offices did not answer further questions.
The latest fine stems from a June recall of SUVs from Toyota's Lexus luxury brand.
About 154,000 of the 2010 Lexus Rx 350s and RX 450h models were recalled because the driver's-side floor mats can trap the gas pedal and cause the vehicles to speed up without warning.
The problem was similar to troubles from 2010 that prompted a series of embarrassing safety recalls by the company.
Toyota has recalled more than 14 million vehicles globally to fix sticky gas pedals and floor mats. The recalls tarnished the company's sterling reputation for reliability and cut into sales.
Recently its sales have rebounded as it appeared to put the safety problems in the rear-view mirror.
But NHTSA said Toyota failed to report acceleration problems in the Lexus SUVs within five business days of discovering them, as required by US law.
The agency said it began investigating the SUVs early this year after receiving complaints from consumers.
In May, the agency contacted Toyota about the problem, and it took the company a month to report 63 incidents of floor mats trapping gas pedals, NHTSA said.
"With today's announcement, I expect Toyota to rigorously reinforce its commitment to adhering to United States safety regulations," US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in the statement.
Next year, the maximum fine NHTSA can assess will double to 35 million
Toyota, NHTSA said, agreed in a settlement to make internal changes to comply with US laws.
In an August interview, Jim Lentz, Toyota's highest-ranking US executive, told The Associated Press that the company was obeying the law in giving information to NHTSA.
In 2010, Toyota paid two 16.4 million fines and one 16 million fine, all for reporting violations. NHTSA said at the time that the company didn't report problems with sticking gas pedals in a timely manner, nor did it report problems with floor mats trapping gas pedals.
Toyota also told NHTSA that a recall of commercial trucks in Japan for a steering problem did not affect US vehicles. But a year later, the company recalled similar vehicles in the US.
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