Toyota Motor Corp. warned Monday that it expects to post its first operating loss in 70 years — an estimated $1.7 billion — during the fiscal year that ends in March.
The world's largest automaker blamed eroding profits on the battered global economy, low demand for cars and the weak dollar. It was the first projected loss since Toyota began reporting such figures in 1941. The company last projected an operated loss in an internal calculation for the year ending March 1938, a year after Toyota was founded.
"The tough times are hitting us far faster, wider and deeper than expected," Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said at a news conference at the company's office in Nagoya, Japan. "This is an unprecedented crisis requiring urgent action."
Sinking sales in the U.S. in the wake of the financial crisis have dealt a heavy blow to Japanese automakers. But Watanabe said that emerging markets, which had held up in the beginning, were also slowing.
For 2008, Toyota estimated that at 8.96 million vehicles, groupwide global sales — which include sales at units Daihatsu and Hino Motors Ltd. — will be down 4 percent from last year.
For the business year ending March 31, Toyota lowered its vehicle sales forecast to 7.5 million vehicles from 8.2 million. It sold nearly 9 million vehicles last business year.
Unlike previous years, Toyota did not disclose its sales and production forecasts for the coming calendar year, saying it was impossible to predict where the bottom for the global vehicle market lay.
"We need to be prepared for the tough conditions to continue, and maybe even worsen," Watanabe said.
The U.S. auto industry has also suffered because of the downturn in the global economy. Last week, President Bush said he would lend General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC up to $17.4 billion to keep them from bankruptcy.
From NPR staff and wire reports