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TOKYO - Japan's Toyota Motor said Wednesday net profit for the year to March fell 30.5 percent to 283.56 billion yen ($3.56 billion), hit by Japan's quake-tsunami disaster and record flooding in Thailand.
But Japan's biggest automaker, also stung by the strong yen, pledged a sharp rebound in the current fiscal year, expecting net profit to more than double to 760 billion yen on surging demand in emerging markets.
Toyota also forecast operating profit to nearly triple year-on-year to 1.0 trillion yen as consumers opt for small and economically priced vehicles, as well as "green" models, a key segment for the manufacturer.
"Our vision is to establish a strong business foundation that will ensure profitability under any kind of difficult business environment," company president Akio Toyoda said in a statement.
"Certainly the last fiscal year was extremely challenging due to the natural disasters in Japan and Thailand, plus the unprecedented strength of the yen."
Toyoda later told a press briefing in Tokyo that "the new platform of sustainable growth has just begun."
Japanese automakers were hammered last year by the country's earthquake and tsunami disaster, which caused enormous production problems, while the later Thailand flooding sparked supply-chain headaches for firms with plants there.
The yen, which hit a record high against the dollar in 2011, began to weaken early this year, a decline that will help exporters whose products become more expensive overseas when the currency strengthens.
Toyota, which said it sold 7.35 million vehicles in the year to March for total sales of 18.58 trillion yen, down 2.2 percent, lost its number one spot in the global carmakers' league last year.
The company had been the world's biggest automaker since 2008 and sold 8.42 million vehicles in 2010.
But its 2011 figure leaves US giant General Motors, with about 9.0 million in unit sales, back in top spot after it emerged from bankruptcy, with Germany's Volkswagen in second place, selling more than 8.0 million vehicles.
Japan's biggest carmaker said it was aiming to boost sales to 8.7 million vehicles globally in the current fiscal year ending March 2013.
"We expect a great increase in sales mainly in North America and Asia this year, especially as we plan to roll out new models," Satoshi Ozawa, Toyota's executive vice president, told a news briefing.
"As the markets get active thanks to a recovery from the disaster and the tax-cut incentive for environmentally friendly cars, we expect new models such as Aqua (a hybrid petrol-electric subcompact) will make good contributions."
The company is banking some of its growth on environmentally friendly vehicles including what Toyota said was the first all-electric sports utility vehicle on the market, a model it unveiled earlier this week.
The electric version of its popular RAV4 has a top range of 100 miles (160 kilometres) and minimum six-hour charge time.
The car will be sold initially only in California with a base price of $49,800, with Toyota hoping to sell a modest 2,600 units over the next three years.
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