TOKYO - Poor sales at home and financial problems abroad, whether from the Asian economic crisis or losses in North America, combined to pull down earnings for all but a handful of Japanese car companies in the fiscal year ended March 31.
As reported two weeks ago, Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. posted record profits in the fiscal year just ended. And Mazda Motor Corp. showed last week that it continues to make progress toward returning to the black.
They were the exceptions, though. Nissan Motor Co., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Nissan Diesel Motor Co. fell deeply into the red, while earnings slumped at Fuji Heavy, Isuzu Motors and Suzuki Motor.
Higher exports to Europe and elsewhere, currency gains and cost-cutting efforts generally weren't enough to offset the companies' woes.
Here are results for five of Japan's major vehicle makers:
Despite improvement in its North American operations, lingering losses there kept Mazda in the red on a consolidated, or group, basis. But the net loss narrowed sharply to the equivalent of $51.5 million from $132.8 million a year earlier as group revenue rose 7.8 percent to $15.5 billion.
Pretax profit fell 54.3 percent to $5.8 million, due in part to accounting changes when Mazda merged its two U.S. operations.
Mazda forecasts a group net profit of $227 million in the current fiscal year, its first black ink in six years. That, it predicts, will allow it to pay its first dividend in six years, which is good news for Ford Motor Co., which owns 33.4 percent of Mazda.
North American operations declined from a loss on an operating basis - before taxes, non-operating income and expenses and extraordinary items - of $150 million the prior year to a loss of $75.7 million in the year just ended.
North America is forecast to be $37.9 million in the black in the current fiscal year.
FUJI HEAVY (SUBARU)
Fuji Heavy Industry Ltd.'s group net income fell 22.4 percent to $232.5 million, due to an extraordinary loss of $26.2 million related to a recall of 1.47 million cars in Japan, plus a larger tax bite now that the company is no longer erasing accumulated losses. Pretax income rose 43 percent to $392.2 million.
Revenue rose 6.6 percent to $9.9 billion on strong exports to the United States. Unit sales fell, however; rising exports could not offset falling sales in Japan.
Isuzu Motors Ltd. pumped up its exports by 21.5 percent, which hiked total unit sales 2.0 percent to 356,481. The volume gain came at a cost, however, as revenue slid 6.4 percent to $13.6 billion.
Pretax income rose 27 percent to $134.5 million, thanks in part to asset sales. But net slid 37 percent to $45.7 million.
Isuzu was hit hard by losses at its subsidiaries, especially those in Southeast Asia, plus a Japanese truck market that was as soft as the overall Japanese economy. The company predicts a home-market upturn in the second half of the current year, based on a recent government economic-stimulus package. But it expects its production and sales in Southeast Asia to get worse this year. General Motors owns 37 percent of Isuzu.
Like most of the industry, Suzuki Motor Corp. spent more on marketing to try to boost sales in Japan's sluggish market. It didn't work.
Unit sales and revenue both fell. Pretax profit fell 22 percent, and net slid 10 percent. Suzuki predicted further declines in revenue and earnings this year.
Truckmaker Nissan Diesel Motor Co. fared even worse than Isuzu, with both home-market and export sales falling. Nissan Diesel posted a parent-only pretax and net loss of $9.8 million. It did not release group results. Nissan owns almost 40 percent of Nissan Diesel, but is in talks to sell most of that to Daimler-Benz AG.