Suzuki Motor Corp. said Monday its group net profit for business 2008 tumbled 65.8 percent to ¥27.4 billion due to the downturn in the global auto market and the yen’s rise against other currencies.

Group operating profit for the business year that ended March 31 dropped 48.5 percent to ¥76.9 billion on sales of ¥3 trillion, down 14.2 percent, it said.

“Due to the rapid shrinking of the car market since last fall, sales and profits both declined for the first time in 10 years,” Senior Managing Executive Officer Takao Hirosawa told a news conference in Tokyo.

But Suzuki, the country’s second-largest minivehicle maker, still managed to eke out a profit amid the huge losses logged by many other carmakers because its dependence on the plummeting North American market is limited and its minicar sales in the domestic market remained relatively firm, he said.

Sales in Asia saw a relatively moderate fall of 11.1 percent to ¥752.9 billion thanks to stable sales in India, where Suzuki has a big share of the market.

In Japan, sales were down 16.9 percent to ¥1.82 trillion.

In contrast, Suzuki was hit hard in the United States and Europe, like many other automakers. The firm’s sales in North America plunged 44.4 percent to ¥225.6 billion.

“The Indian economy looks very good right now, but it won’t continue for long” because it will be affected by the global economic downturn, said Chairman and President Osamu Suzuki.

For this year, the company expects a ¥10 billion group operating profit, down 87 percent, and a ¥5 billion net profit, down 81.8 percent.

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