TOKYO — Booming sales of fuel-efficient cars helped lift Toyota to its biggest quarterly profit and put the maker of the Prius hybrid on pace to beat General Motors as the world’s No. 1 automaker this year.
Despite concerns in the industry about sluggish auto sales in the U.S. and Japan, Toyota Motor Corp. got help from a weak yen and cost cuts in its earnings announced Friday for its first fiscal quarter.
Japan’s biggest automaker posted a 32.3 percent jump in profit to 491.54 billion yen ($4.1 billion) for the April-June quarter.
Surging gas prices have proved a big plus for Toyota as drivers flock to its fuel-efficient models, including the Camry, the best-selling model in the U.S., and the Prius gas-electric hybrid.
Even in North America, a market that’s proving tough recently, Toyota sold 762,000 vehicles in the April-June period, an increase of 15,000 vehicles from a year ago and helped by the introduction of the Tundra truck and Lexus LS.
“The results are fantastic,” said Tsuyoshi Mochimaru, auto analyst with Lehman Brothers in Japan.
Quarterly sales rose 15.7 percent to 6.523 trillion yen ($54.7 billion). At current exchange rates, that’s more than General Motors Corp.’s record quarterly sales of $54.5 billion set in the second quarter of 2006.