Toyota Chief Seeks Disaster-Free Year After Quake, Flood

Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda said he’s looking forward to a disaster-free year after calamities in Japan and Thailand hobbled production, causing the carmaker to lose the global sales lead to General Motors Co.

“I feel that we have hit rock bottom and that we are turning the corner,” Toyoda told reporters in Tokyo today. “What we want more than anything is for nothing to go wrong this year.”

The maker of the Camry sedan is forecasting group sales to climb 21 percent to a record 9.58 million vehicles this year after natural disasters in Japan and Thailand hobbled production in 2011. Toyota had also recalled more than 10 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles worldwide in 2009 and 2010 for defects associated with unintended acceleration.

“Compared to when Toyota’s profits were at a record, there is the strong yen,” said Takashi Aoki, senior fund manager at Mizuho Asset Management Co. “Toyota needs to reduce the impact from the strong yen by cutting costs of its cars.”

The Japanese currency is still too strong, and needs to weaken to about 95 to 100 for the yen to be at “an appropriate level,” said Toyoda.

Hybrid Vehicles

The yen, which appreciated more than any major currency for two straight years, is the worst performer this quarter after its value depreciated more than 7 percent against the dollar, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Toyota rose 0.4 percent to 3,535 yen at the close of trading in Tokyo. The shares have gained 38 percent this year, headed for their biggest quarterly gain since 1999.

In China, the maker of the world’s best selling gas-electric car Prius plans to focus on increasing sales of hybrid vehicles, Toyoda said. The company reiterated plans to maintain Japanese production of 3 million vehicles annually.

Toyota won’t follow Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s second-biggest carmaker, to introduce a low-end brand, Toyoda said. Nissan yesterday said it will revive its Datsun brand after three decades to increase sales in emerging markets.

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