What happened

Toyota Motor (TM 0.23%) shareholders outpaced a booming market in August. The stock rose 12% compared to the S&P 500's 7% increase, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

That rally pushed the automaker's shares closer to positive territory for the year, but shares are still down and trailing the broader market's 6% rise through early September.

A couple shopping for a new car with the help of a salesperson.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

August was a good month for most of the auto industry, which had been beaten down during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Toyota contributed to that general optimism by announcing some good news in its early August earnings report.

The company reported a brutal 50% decline in volume for the period that ended in late June. However, the pandemic's impact wasn't as bad as management had predicted. Toyota also managed to generate a profit for the period even as sales plunged .

Now what

Toyota is bracing for continued financial challenges due to COVID-19 and recessionary demand pressures. But management is growing a bit more optimistic about the industry, so it raised its fiscal 2020 volume outlook to call for 7.2 million automobile sales compared to the prior target of 7 million.

While that update suggests the worse might be behind Toyota and its peers, it still suggests plenty of volatility and weak overall operating results ahead for automakers.