TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> posted a forecast-beating 4.4 percent rise in April-June operating profit and raised its North America vehicle sales target for the year to next March, boosted by strong sales of SUVs and pickup trucks in the United States, its biggest market.
Toyota, the world's best-selling automaker, said on Tuesday its first-quarter operating profit was 692.7 billion yen (4 billion pounds), exceeding the 637.3 billion yen mean estimate of 13 analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
North America operating profit for the period rose 45 percent to 149.7 billion yen, the company said, adding that cost cuts and a weaker yen also helped to bolster earnings.
For the year to March 2015, Toyota stuck with its full-year operating profit forecast of 2.3 trillion yen. That would be a record high, although just a 0.3 percent increase from a year earlier as the tailwind from a weaker yen that helped boost export profits runs out of steam.
For the current calendar year, the company trimmed its global groupwide sales forecast to 10.22 million vehicles, a reduction of 110,000 vehicles, reflecting weakness in emerging markets.
"Conditions in Thailand, India, Brazil and other emerging markets are weak," Managing Officer Koki Konishi told an earnings briefing.
"But we're trying our best to get an additional 50,000 vehicles out of Japan to offset some of that, and to reach around 2.3 million in the U.S."
For the financial year to March, Toyota raised its North America sales projection to 2.71 million vehicles from 2.62 million. In July, Toyota's total U.S. sales rose 12 percent, surpassing Ford Motor Co (F.N) to become the No.2 seller for the month.
The full-year sales target for Asia excluding Japan was trimmed to 1.58 million vehicles from 1.63 million, while Europe was nudged up to 860,000 from 850,000. Japan was left unchanged at 2.21 million. The financial year forecasts are consolidated figures and exclude sales to certain regions including China.
A sales-tax hike in Japan in April dented demand for new cars and Toyota's April-June domestic sales dropped 9.6 percent year-on-year to 319,460 vehicles.
Toyota's shares ended flat at 6,042 yen before the earnings announcement, compared with a 1 percent drop in Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei average (.N225). For the year to date, both Toyota and the benchmark have fallen 6 percent.
(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Matt Driskill)