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Toyota expects SUVs to drive sales

An employee inspects a Toyota Lexus NX sport-utility vehicle (SUV) on the production line at the Toyota plant in Miyawaka, Japan.
Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images
An employee inspects a Toyota Lexus NX sport-utility vehicle (SUV) on the production line at the Toyota plant in Miyawaka, Japan.

Shares of Toyota Motor climbed more than 2 percent intraday Thursday after reporting earnings and raising the sales growth forecast for North America, its largest export market.

The Japanese automaker said it expects to sell 30,000 more vehicles in North America in fiscal year 2017 than previously forecast. The forecast for all global vehicle sales was unchanged at 10.15 million units.

"We expect further sales growth in North America driven by pick-up trucks and SUVs," Managing Officer Tetsuya Otake said on the earnings call.

Low gasoline prices have boosted demand for the larger vehicles, while hurting demand for passenger cars such as Toyota's hybrid Prius. Toyota's total North American vehicle sales declined 13,429 to 715,384 units in the fiscal first quarter.

Last week, Ford Motor said its full-year earnings forecast was at risk with U.S. auto sales expected to fall in the second half.

Its U.S. vehicle sales fell 3 percent in July, while Toyota, the third-largest in the U.S. market, posted a 1.4 percent year-over-year decline that was better than expectations. Overall, July U.S. auto sales reported Tuesday showed a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 17.88 million vehicles, the highest since last November, according to Autodata.

In its fiscal first quarter earnings report released Thursday, Toyota cut its full-year earnings forecast to 1.6 trillion yen versus the prior estimate of 1.7 trillion yen, as the automaker expects the strengthening yen to hit profits by 1.12 trillion yen.

For the next 12 months, Toyota now sees the yen at 102 against the U.S. dollar versus the 120 level of the prior fiscal year.

To counter yen strength, the automaker also plans to produce more vehicles and source more parts in the United States, according to a Dow Jones report citing Otake's comments.

Operating income fell 15 percent from the same period last year to 642 billion yen for the quarter, still topping average Reuters estimate of 493 billion yen.

Toyota shares have risen more than 10 percent for the quarter so far but are down about 9 percent year-to-date.