JAPAN – Japan’s biggest automaker, Toyota Motor Corp has announced that its profits rose by 14% to 662.3 billion yen (US$6.1 billion) for the three months ending September 30. The Automaker also announced that it will buy back shares worth US$1.8 billion.

Toyota’s impressive performance beat an average forecast of 592.3 billion yen (US$5.42 billion), based on estimates from nine analysts, Refinitiv data showed and is the company’s strongest second quarter since 2015.

 The automakers strong performance is largely attributed to a higher global vehicle sale and an improved performance in North America.

A Reuters report noted that the Japanese auto giant sold 2.75 million vehicles globally, up from 2.18 million a year earlier.

Toyota’s performance in North America, its biggest market improved, rising to an impressive 5.6%, while the company’s sales in Asia climbed by 3.4%.

Operating profit in North America, which has been a sore spot for Toyota over the past two years, more than doubled partly due to the company’s decision to offer less discounting.

“New models of the RAV4 and the Corolla, as well as last year’s Camry, have been well received in North America, so we’ve been able to lower incentives,” Operating Officer Kenta Kon told reporters at a briefing.

Toyota said it would buy back up to $1.8 billion worth of its common stock, or 34 million shares, by end-March.

The automaker however projected that its operating profit in the year ending March 2019 will fall by 2.7%, after three years of gains, as a strengthening yen continues to weigh in on sales.

It also lowered its forecast for annual global car sales by 2.7% to 10.7 million units, and attributed this to weakening demand in India, Indonesia and Thailand. Still, it expects record sales topping last year’s 10.6 million.

Toyota also said higher R&D investments and rising labor costs had made cost-cutting a challenge, but it managed an additional 45 billion yen in cost savings during the quarter.

Executive Vice President Mitsuru Kawai told reporters that the company was looking at every possible way to cut production costs and improve efficiency at its factories, including scraping out “every last drop” of vehicle body paint from the can before opening a new one.

Toyota’s projected profit slip is subdued when compared to smaller rivals including Mitsubishi Motors Corp Subaru Corp and Mazda Motors Corp, which have slashed their full-year outlooks by up to 67% this month amid weaker demand for their cars.

Many of them acknowledge they are struggling to contain costs amid the need to invest heavily to develop self-driving cars and electric vehicles.