Is Toyota Motor (NYSE: TM) ready to motor higher or stall out?

Its third-quarter net income increased 7.5% to $4.3 billion, and revenue increased 9.2% to $62.8 billion. But several items in the quarterly results might have investors ready to hit the brakes.

The bad news was no big surprise: North American sales failed to impress, with vehicle sales decreasing by 8,000 units sold, and operating income falling as well. (Toyota said the new Tundra and fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Prius did well in North America, though.) Germany and several other markets were weak as well.

Toyota held firm to its yearly guidance for earnings, revenue, and total vehicle sales. We could all argue over whether that's good news or bad news. It's certainly nice that the comapny hasn't ratcheted down expectations in a tough climate, but then again, its conservative stance may mean it's nervous about the fate of the U.S. economy.  

Personally, Toyota's third quarter shores up my optimism on the automaker -- the reason why I nominated it for our recent contest to discover this year's best international stocks. Toyota's had a strong couple of years, and I feel it's better able to innovate than rivals such as General Motors (NYSE: GM), Daimler (NYSE: DAI), and Ford (NYSE: F). I'll admit that I also like it more than rival Honda (NYSE: HMC).

Investors with a taste for international stocks could certainly do worse than eyeing a profitable auto company like Toyota, with its history of innovation, established and popular brand, and plentiful cash on its balance sheet. (I'm not as crazy about its debt load, that kind of capital structure seems fairly common with the automakers.) For the long term, I think Toyota's bound to keep on truckin'.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.