AFP - Japan's Toyota Motor, the world's largest automaker, announced Friday its first annual loss and warned it would plunge deeper into the red this year because of the global economic downturn.
The company reported a net loss of 436.9 billion yen (4.4 billion dollars) for the year to March, a dramatic turnaround from the previous year's profit of 1.72 trillion yen.
It logged an operating loss of 461.0 billion yen, against a year-earlier profit of 2.27 trillion yen. Revenue slumped 21.9 percent to 20.53 trillion yen.
Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe blamed "the significant deterioration in vehicle sales particularly in the US and Europe, the rapid appreciation of the yen against the US dollar and the euro and the sharp rise in raw materials."
The grim results from once-invincible Toyota underscore the depth of the crisis in the worldwide auto industry, which has been battered by a slump in sales as people stop buying cars during the recession.
Toyota expects an even worse performance in the current business year to March, predicting a net loss of 550 billion yen and an operating loss of 850 billion yen, or about 8.6 billion dollars.
The global economy is expected to take some time to recover, said Watanabe, who will soon be replaced by Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the automaker's founder, at the helm.
Watanabe said the company would expand its line up of fuel-sipping hybrid cars this year and cut costs as part of efforts to return to profit.
Toyota overtook General Motors in 2008 to become the world's top selling automaker, but only because the Detroit giant's sales fell faster than its own.
The Japanese company has idled plants and slashed thousands of temporary jobs in response to its biggest ever crisis.