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Car giant vows recovery from quake

Toyota president Akio Toyoda has promised shareholders a revival in the company's fortunes despite the production disruptions caused by the earthquake and tsunami which decimated north eastern Japan earlier this year.

The double-disasters, which occurred in early March, dominated discussions at the annual shareholders' meeting at Toyota headquarters in the town named after the world's biggest car maker.

The meeting began with a moment of silence for those killed and missing, now estimated at more than 23,000 people.

The first question from investors was about what the company is doing in response to the destruction.

But the overall mood was supportive and upbeat, periodically interrupted by applause, unlike shareholder meetings in recent years when Toyota officials were on the defensive following massive global recalls caused by quality lapses and profit drops that followed the financial crisis.

The quake and tsunami damaged key parts suppliers in north eastern Japan, and vehicle production for some models is still not back to normal, three months later.

That is hitting Toyota sales, even for popular models, just at a time when it was starting to recover from a two-year recall fiasco.

Toyota shares had been rising earlier this year on hopes for a recovery, but lost such gains after the March 11 disaster, trading recently in Tokyo at about 3,200 yen (£24.70)

One shareholder complained that he is still waiting for his Prius hybrid order, but he called himself "a Toyota fan" and expressed confidence that the firm is on a comeback, and another said he is rooting for the car maker, adding: "We want a Toyota that runs at the top."

Mr Toyoda said his company is working hard and vehicle production is expected to be back at pre-disaster levels by July. "I ask shareholders for their understanding," he added, which was welcomed with enthusiastic clapping.

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