Leading Japanese minivehicle maker Suzuki Motor on Wednesday reported group operating profit for April-December of 69.36 billion yen ($US657.7 million), with net profit of Y40.48 billion on sales of Y1.61 trillion.

Reuters noted that no comparisons from the year before were given since Suzuki, the country’s fourth largest car maker by market value, is reporting quarterly figures for the first time.

Suzuki, also the world’s third-largest motorcycle maker, has been making steady advances, helped by aggressive cost-cutting and surging sales of both cars and motorbikes in Asia, the report said.

Backed by strong demand in countries like Indonesia and Thailand, Suzuki’s motorcycle sales exceeded one million units during the nine months, compared with 826,000 units for the whole of last year.

Noting that Suzuki has also benefited from its huge presence in India through majority-owned Maruti Udyog, the country’s dominant car company, as the population upgrades from motorcycles to cars and as roads improve, Reuters said Asia performance has made up for stalled demand in Japan, where sales of the third-generation Wagon R, a core model launched in late September, have been lacklustre.

Its North American business had also disappointed in the first six months, but a spokesman reportedly said Suzuki was making steady progress to return the region back into the black.

In the US, Suzuki has recently rolled out new model lines built by GM-Daewoo in South Korea and its January sales were up a promising 62.5% in January.

According to Reuters, for the full year to March 31, Suzuki, 20% owned by General Motors, maintained its forecast of a 13% climb in net profit to a record 35 billion yen, but analysts generally expect more.

Net profit for the past nine months beat the full-year forecast, but Suzuki is expecting losses to write down the depreciation of assets in the final quarter, the report noted, adding that the firm expects operating profit to rise 15% to 85 billion yen, largely due to the full consolidation of its Indonesian unit, Indomobil Suzuki.