Toyota: Profits plunge more than 75% in 1st quarter

TOKYO — Toyota's quarterly profit crumpled more than 75 percent after the March earthquake and tsunami wiped out parts suppliers in northeastern Japan, severely disrupting car production.

The automaker on Wednesday gave no forecast for the current fiscal year through March 2012, citing an uncertain outlook because production continues to be hampered by shortages of parts. The company said, though, in the afternoon parts availability is improving and U.S. production will reach nearly 70 percent of normal levels in June.

The disaster's impact is expected to lead to Toyota losing its spot as the world's top-selling automaker to General Motors this year.

Toyota president Akio Toyoda said he and others at Toyota are "gritting our teeth" to keep jobs in Japan. He promised to disclose earnings forecasts by mid-June.

Toyota reported January-March profit slid to 25.4 billion yen ($314 million) from 112.2 billion yen a year earlier. For the fiscal year that ended March 2011, Toyota's earnings doubled, showing that the Japanese automaker had been on the way to recovery from its recall crisis when the earthquake struck on March 11.

"Our priority is to get our production back to normal and recover from the disaster," a somber Toyoda told reporters. When a full recovery would come was still unknown, he said.

By the end of May, the crisis will have cost the company production of 550,000 vehicles in Japan, and another 350,000 overseas. Production is now back at about 50 percent.

Toyota said it sold 7.31 million vehicles for the fiscal year through March 2011, up by 71,000 vehicles from the previous year.

For the January-March period, Toyota sold 1.79 million vehicles worldwide. That is fewer than the 2.22 million vehicles GM sold and fewer than No. 3 automaker, Volkswagen of Germany, at 1.99 million.

Sales for the January-March quarter dipped 12 percent year-on-year to 4.6 trillion yen ($57 billion), according to Toyota.

For the fiscal year that ended March 2011, profit doubled to 408.1 billion yen ($5 billion) from 209.4 billion yen the previous year.

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