TOKYO -- Cascading red ink in North America and Europe prompted Toyota Motor Corp. today to triple this years expected loss and seek sweeping cost cuts of $5.5 billion.
The worlds largest automaker now expects to report its first annual operating loss in seven decades -- ¥450 billion ($4.95 billion) -- in the fiscal year that ends March 31.
The deteriorating outlook, included in a fiscal third-quarter report, comes just six weeks after Toyota reversed its original, overly optimistic forecast for a profit this year to a $1.65 billion operating loss.
The tripling of that loss was only one of several dismal downgrades issued by Toyota.
The automaker said it expects global sales to tumble 17.87 percent to 7.32 million units. Thats against Decembers forecast of 7.54 million vehicles and last years tally of 8.91 million.
Toyota also will book its first annual net loss since 1950: $3.85 billion. That contrasts with last years $18.9 billion net profit.
Toyotas results are getting hammered by plunging business in the United States, where industry sales rates reached quarter-century lows at the end of 2008.
Toyotas U.S. sales plunged 15.4 percent in 2008 compared with 2007, while overall U.S. sales fell 18.0 percent. And in January, Toyota sales slipped an additional 31.7 percent, while overall U.S. sales collapsed 37.1 percent.
Meanwhile, the yens rapid surge against a weakening dollar lopped billions more off company profits.
Toyotas rush to expand North American output, through opening new plants such as its Tundra pickup factory in San Antonio, only added to the automakers crisis of overcapacity as the market imploded.
As the business expanded, there may be certain issues we didnt pay enough attention to, Executive Vice President Mitsuo Kinoshita said while announcing results.
Losses and cost cuts
In the October-December fiscal third quarter, North America swung to an operating loss of $1.40 billion. Just a year earlier, Toyota had boasted a regional operating profit of $984.6 million. Sales in the quarter shriveled 31.1 percent to 521,000 vehicles.
Europe didnt fare much better.
The region booked an operating loss of $476.9 million (¥43.4 billion), wiping out a profit of $373.6 million the year before. European sales shrank 23.7 percent in the quarter to 235,000 units.
Kinoshita said Toyota will try to reduce fixed costs by 10 percent.
Key to this will be freezing plans to build plants and expand production capacity. That will affect several projects, including plans to build a Prius factory in Mississippi and set up car plants in China, India and Brazil.
Major r&d cuts coming
Toyota also will cut spending on marketing and r&d. The goal is to chop $5.49 billion (¥500 billion) in costs, Kinoshita said.
Toyota also may let more workers go, but Kinoshita said no involuntary layoffs will occur.
Last month, Japans Nikkei newspaper reported that Toyota was considering the elimination of 1,000 full-time jobs in North America and Britain. Said Kinoshita: Outside of Japan, we intend to make every possible effort to protect the jobs of our employees.