TOKYO -- Despite slipping sales, North America emerged as a bright spot for Toyota Motor Corp. in a quarter that saw output and profits hammered by Japan's earthquake.
Regional operating profit surged to ¥88.4 billion (about $1.07 billion) in the three months that ended March 31, compared with an operating loss of $255.9 million a year earlier. The results restored North America's traditional role as Toyota's most profitable market.
The year before, Asia -- led by China -- eclipsed North America as Toyota's biggest profit engine.
But for the fiscal year that ended March 31, North America was tops, generating annual operating profit of $4.10 billion, compared with $3.78 billion in Asia.
The surge reflected the general recovery in the North American auto market. But Toyota also was rebounding from a lousy January-March quarter in 2010, the height of its global recall crisis.
On a global basis, Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami hammered fourth-quarter profits at Toyota, slashing net income 77 percent amid production stops and sliding sales.
Net income plunged to $306.5 million in the fiscal fourth quarter that ended March 31, from $1.35 billion a year earlier.
Revenue fell 12 percent to $56.0 billion, from $63.7 billion. Global sales slid 12 percent to 1.79 million units in the quarter, with North America moving just 483,000 vehicles, compared with 551,000 the year before.
Executive Vice President Satoshi Ozawa said the quake has cost Toyota 170,000 units in lost sales.