May 1, 2014 1:48 am JST

Toyota seen clocking record profit for fiscal 2013

 NAGOYA -- Propelled by higher sales and a favorable exchange rate, Toyota Motor Corp. is expected to report its best operating result ever for the just-ended fiscal year.

     Group operating profit likely jumped about 70% to around 2.3 trillion yen ($22.1 billion), topping the 2.27 trillion yen high-water mark reached in fiscal 2007.

     Toyota saw top-line growth in the Japanese and North American markets in the year ended March 31. At home, it benefited from a rush of car purchases ahead of the April 1 consumption tax hike. Toyota became the first automaker on a group basis to sell more than 10 million vehicles worldwide in a single year.

     After the global financial crisis, Toyota froze new-plant construction while overhauling production lines and taking other steps to improve cost performance. With the addition of a foreign exchange windfall in fiscal 2013 -- the yen weakened by around 17 against the dollar compared with the previous fiscal year -- operating profit took off. Still, Toyota likely missed a company estimate of 2.4 trillion yen.

     The automaker reached a $1.2 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice in connection with 2009-10 vehicle recalls. It also booked charges related to its impending production pullout from Australia.

     Toyota cannot count on another foreign exchange boost this fiscal year. It will likely keep its assumed yen-dollar rate at around 100. While sales are expected to remain strong in North America, the same is not likely in Japan, Thailand or Indonesia. And investments in standardizing autoparts worldwide, part of the automaker's "New Global Architecture," will squeeze profit.

     Toyota follows U.S. accounting standards.