Toyota: output recovery still seen taking to year-end

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> on Tuesday denied a report its output would return to pre-quake levels two or three months earlier than expected, but said it will try to resume normal production as soon as possible.

Japan's automakers have slashed production after the massive earthquake in March crippled supply chains and damage to a major nuclear plant caused power shortages.

This has benefited sales at rivals General Motors Co <GM.N>, Ford Motor Co <F.N> and Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> as they pick up the slack while the supply of Japanese vehicles dwindles on dealer lots.

The Nikkei newspaper report briefly sent Toyota shares more than 3 percent higher, helping lift overall sentiment in the Tokyo stock market. But the automaker said after the bell that it still expects output to normalize by November or December, as announced on April 22.

Toyota's domestic factories are back online but are working at volumes equivalent to half of the company's original plans and at an average 40 percent outside Japan. It plans to gradually lift production from July in Japan and around August overseas.

Honda Motor Co <7267.T>, Japan's No.3 automaker, has also said it would take until the end of the year before production returns to normal.

The disruption of parts supplies in Japan has also affected car makers overseas, but Hyundai <005380.KS>, GM, Ford and Chrysler far outsold their Japanese peers with double-digit sales growth in the United States during April. Toyota's sales rose by 1.3 percent, while Hyundai jumped 40.3 percent.

Renesas Electronics Corp <6723.T>, a major supplier of chips to the auto industry, said last month it would resume operations at a damaged factory north of Tokyo on June 15, and analysts have said that Toyota's previously announced plan may be conservative.

Prior to Toyota's denial, its shares rose as high as 3.4 percent before they closed up 1.7 percent against the Nikkei average's <.N225> 0.3 percent gain.

(Reporting by Mayumi Negishi and James Topham; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)