Toyota and BMW caught in worldwide car crash

The recession continues to hammer global car sales. But is there some light at the end of the tunnel?

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Giant Japanese car-maker Toyota and German counterpart BMW both reported some fairly dismal results today for the second quarter of 2009: Toyota chalked up an eye-watering loss of nearly £500m, while BMW saw profits slide by 76% to just over £100m. Both are still struggling to cope with the precipitous drop in new car sales, which has hammered carmakers all around the world. But with Toyota suggesting that sales should pick up towards the end of the year, and US carmaker Ford actually reporting a slight rise in year-on-year sales, is the worst now over?

Toyota’s sales figures certainly look pretty grim, on the face of it. Revenues were down 38%, as car sales fell by more than a third (including a 47% plunge in the US). Throw in the rising value of the yen, which has hurt all the big Japanese exporters, and this added up to loss of £483m. However, even these gruesome figures weren’t as bad as some expected – and Toyota also said that it’s now expecting to sell about 100,000 more cars this year than originally anticipated. It may seem an odd time to be upgrading forecasts, but we suppose it’s all relative.

BMW is faring rather better, in that at least it managed to end the quarter with a nine-figure profit – although car sales were still down by 18%, and its profit of €121m was only a quarter of what it made in the same period last year. But if anything it was actually gloomier about the outlook – it refused to give any specific forecasts in the current climate, while insisting that ‘a lasting and wide ranging recovery is not yet in sight’.

The best hope for these carmakers appears to be national governments’ attempts to prop up their car industries. In the US, for example, the so-called ‘cash for clunkers’ programme, which offers customers a rebate of up to $4,500 if they trade in their old car for a new one, is proving very successful: the original $1bn budget has disappeared so fast that the Government’s now seeking an extra $2bn. And Ford said yesterday that the scheme had helped it to sell 2% more cars in July than it did in the same month last year – a modest increase, perhaps, but still pretty remarkable in the circumstances.

We’re still not convinced these schemes make sense, either from a financial or environmental point of view. But you’re unlikely to hear the likes of Ford, Toyota and BMW complaining.


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