Toyota Motor has used the Corona crisis and positioned itself even more efficiently than before.

The world's largest automaker reported a record surplus of 897.8 billion yen (6.9 billion euros) for the first quarter of the fiscal year on Wednesday.

Patrick Welter

Correspondent for business and politics in Japan, based in Tokyo.

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Toyota, however, cautious as ever, maintained its business forecast for the full year.

The company named the corona pandemic, the global shortage of semiconductors and rising material costs as reasons for caution.

More profit per car

Compared to the same quarter of the previous year, Toyota sold considerably more cars in the period from April to June, increasing sales and profits.

This is not surprising given that a year ago business was almost completely down as a result of the lockdowns in the United States and Europe.

The comparison with the quarter two years ago, when nobody in the world thought of the coronavirus, is more relevant.

In this comparison, the good financial result is not based on car sales, which at 2.15 million units were still below the 2.32 million two years ago.

Rather, it is crucial that Toyota operates even more efficiently than before the crisis.

The operating margin was 12.6 percent or 3 percentage points more than in the same quarter two years ago.

In other words, Toyota sold fewer cars, but made more profit with each car than before.

Sales reached 7935.5 billion yen (about 61 billion euros) in the quarter that has just ended.

The operating profit rose to 997.4 billion yen (about 7.7 billion euros).

Hydrogen up front

Better than other car manufacturers, Toyota has insulated itself from the consequences of the global shortage of semiconductors through warehousing, among others with suppliers.

But even Toyota will not get through this crisis without a trace.

The company halted some production lines in Japan this week as a result of missing microchips.

Toyota pointed out that the proportion of electrified vehicles in sales was steadily increasing.

In the same quarter two years ago the share was 20 percent, most recently it was 26.6 percent or 677,000 units.

The company is particularly criticized in Germany because it is lagging behind the trend towards battery-powered electric cars.

The lion's share of electrified vehicles sold by Toyota are hybrid-powered cars that have an internal combustion engine and an electric motor on board.

Toyota sold just 3,000 battery-powered electric cars and 2,000 of the hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles.

Toyota counters the criticism that customers are asking for more hybrid vehicles and that they are adapting to the wishes of the customers.

With the offer of a fuel cell vehicle, the company also has another option for environmentally friendly mobility in hand, should the trend towards purely battery-powered electric cars break off.