Toyota predicts early rebound in production capacity

by Hiroko Nakata

Staff Writer

Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it expects that its damaged domestic production lines will rebound to 70 percent of capacity by June, a month earlier than initially scheduled, thanks to efforts made after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami slowed some of its plants in the northeast.

At the same news conference, Toyota reported that its group net profit for the business year ended March 31 doubled to ¥408.18 billion from the previous year, as robust sales in Asia and other emerging markets overcame the negative impact of the surging yen and natural disasters. The results, however, fell short of the ¥490 billion forecast announced in February.

Citing continued uncertainty about the full impact of the quake, Toyota declined to release its forecast for the business year that started April 1, but said it would make the announcement by mid-June.

“We will recover in June our production to about 70 percent of the normal level at home and abroad,” President Akio Toyoda said at a news conference announcing financial results for the last business year. “We will make maximum efforts to speed up production further,” he said.

On April 22, Toyoda predicted the recovery would start in July at home and in August overseas. The auto giant’s production is currently about a half what it was before the quake.

Toyoda added that it’s on target to resume full production in November or December.

But the president’s optimism was tempered by Executive Vice President Satoshi Ozawa, who said the recent sharp rise in the yen is hampering the company’s efforts to maintain domestic production and employment, an indication that more production may have to be moved overseas.