TOKYO - Isuzu Motors Ltd. lost money in North America for a second consecutive year, in the year ended March 31. A slump in its sport-utility sales overpowered the benefit of a weak yen.
Isuzu's North American operating loss of 7.1 billion yen, or $53.5 million at current exchange rates, reflected the slow-selling Axiom. The sport-utility, which was introduced in April 2001, sold only 5,900 units in the U.S. market in the calendar year, well below a sales goal of 18,000, while eating up $50 million for sales promotions.
That partly weighed down Isuzu's overall North American sales, which fell 19.7 percent to 109,589 in the last fiscal year.
In the fiscal year that began April 1, Isuzu, owned 49 percent by General Motors, expects North American sales to decline to 90,500. That could make it hard for the troubled truck maker to turn around its North American operations, although Isuzu expects to break even this fiscal year.
Meanwhile, DMAX Ltd. a Moraine, Ohio, diesel-engine venture jointly owned by Isuzu and GM, posted an operating profit of $24 million in the latest fiscal year on sales of 96,000 engines.
The weak North American operations hurt Isuzu's entire business. Its net loss of $322.6 million on a consolidated, or group basis, narrowed from the $501.2 million loss in the previous year. Isuzu made operating profit of $113.6 million by cutting costs, a turnaround from the $205 million loss in the previous year.
Revenues rose 1.8 percent to $12.0 billion. In this fiscal year, Isuzu expects to recover to $22.5 million in net income on projected sales of $10.3 billion.
The weak yen, which boosts yen revenues and profit from every dollar taken in on sales outside Japan, pushed several Japanese carmakers to record profits in the fiscal year just ended. At Isuzu, the weak yen also boosted operating profit by $63.8 million, but that was wiped out by declining sales volumes and a weaker product mix, which erased $90.1 million from operating profits.
Separately, Nissan Diesel Motor Co. said it posted a 0.9 percent rise in net income in the fiscal year just ended, benefiting from cost cuts amid the slumping truck market.
Its consolidated net profit rose to $4.6 million, despite an 8.1 percent fall in sales to $2.8 billion. Nissan Diesel's unit sales worldwide tumbled 9.3 percent. Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA each own 22.5 percent of Nissan Diesel.