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'Two more tough years for Toyota'

2009-06-25 09:08
Tokyo - The new head of Toyota Motor Corp, the world's biggest car maker, warned on Thursday the autos industry faces two years of tough times, as he outlined his strategy to get the company back to profits.

Toyota aimed to build more autonomous operations in North America and shift focus to marketing region-specific vehicle lineup, instead of providing a full line-up in every region, newly appointed President Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the company founder, told his first media conference in the job.

Most of Toyota's factories around the world are underused as a global recession hammers car sales, sending two of America's three big car makers into receivership.

Facing a second straight year of record losses for the current year to March 2010, Toyota aims to cut costs from its already lean operations so it can be profitable using just 70 percent of its factory capacity.

"We want to do everything possible to avoid a third consecutive year of losses," Toyoda told reporters.

European focus

Toyoda said European efforts would focus on hybrids.

The company's remodeled Prius hybrid, launched last month, has been a rare bright spot, receiving more than 180 000 orders in Japan.

Production has been limited to two plants so far, creating a bottleneck for delivery, while analysts say the fuel-sipping model could eat into sales of other more profitable cars.

Toyoda has said he would aim to steer the company founded by his grandfather "back to basics" - a promise also made by his predecessor, Katsuaki Watanabe, when he took over in 2005 as its factories scrambled to meet soaring demand.

At the annual general meeting this week, Toyota promised shareholders to do better to recover from a 461 billion yen ($4.8 billion) operating loss.

For the year to March 2010, it has forecast an even bigger loss, of 850 billion yen, although consensus forecasts put the loss at a much smaller 495 billion yen.

Riding out downturn

Unlike bankrupt US rivals Chrysler and General Motors, Toyota has said it plans to ride out the downturn without closing any plants or slashing full-time jobs significantly until an eventual rebound in demand for cars.

Many industry executives have said recent sales trends in major markets such as the United States and Japan indicate that demand had hit a floor, but opinion is divided over when it would recover convincingly.

In the United States, Toyota's biggest and until recently most profitable market, its sales are down 38% in the year to date, slightly underperforming a 36% drop overall.

Data on Thursday showed Toyota's global production in May, including units Daihatsu Motor Co and Hino Motors Ltd, fell 38% to 501 685 vehicles.

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