Toyota outpaces Detroit rivals in profitability per vehicle

As the world's highest volume automaker in 2014, you would probably expect Toyota to project a healthy financial outlook for the end of its fiscal year on March 31. But thanks in large part to the weak value of the yen and a large number of export vehicles, the automaker could make about four times more than General Motors, despite selling just a few hundred thousand more cars than its Detroit competitor last year.

Toyota forecasts the equivalent of $24.5 billion in earnings for the fiscal year, compared to $6.5 billion from GM in 2014. According to an analysis by The Detroit News, the Japanese automaker is expecting average earnings of $2,726 on each vehicle it sells, versus $994 from Ford and $654 from GM.

The key to this massive success has less to do with Toyota's products and much more in the company's location. The yen's value to the dollar is at its lowest point in decades. Also, according to The News, the automaker exports about 45 percent of its Japan-assembled vehicles, meaning bigger profits in the conversion to foreign currencies. Coupled with strong demand in the US, and the business looks even better.

Automakers in the US are peeved by Toyota's currency-based boost. According to The News, there are allegations of manipulation of the yen's value, and Ford president of the Americas Joe Hinrichs calls the problem the "major trade barrier of the 21st century." He thinks the Japanese companies are making about $2,000 per exported vehicle due to the conversion.

Intriguingly, it wasn't that long ago when Japanese automakers were moving operations from the country due to the strong value of the yen to the dollar curtailing profits. Infiniti shifted production, and there were fears that Toyota might close some of its factories, as well.

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